WITH MODESTO P. SA-ONOY
One question that had bugged the people of this province is why the Commission of Audit, particularly the Commission Proper composed of three commissioners had not acted on the contract of sale and of lease between the provincial government and Ayala Land, Inc. which had been submitted to the Commission in July 1911 or, as of now, nine months after all the requirements had been submitted.
Last week Gov. Alfredo Marañon showed pique at the unreasonable delay, and rightly so because the situation is no longer normal or legally acceptable but, in fact, raises questions that go beyond the usual course of government service.
If one considers that the governor had sent several letters that were ignored, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan and the various city and municipal councils and business sectors had sent appeals for action, the inaction of COA already creates the suspicion that nothing is wrong with the contract and that COA is simply looking at minute ways to prevent it and therefore is no longer independent as envisioned by the Constitution.
Instead of the agency that ought to help government it had become an obstacle, an obstructionist and even a saboteur of local development efforts to create jobs and livelihood and contribute to solving the problems of joblessness and poverty. It seems that COA under the new leadership is anti-poor or perhaps working for vested interest or to please its clients.
Let’s back track a little bit to put our readers in the right perspective before I trace the professional, business and financial links between COA and SM. By COA here I refer to the chairperson of COA – Maria Gracia Pulido-Tan. Indirectly though, the two other commissioners can be indirectly linked as well for cooperating in this unreasonable delay.
I wonder whether that Heidi Mendoza who was portrayed as an epitome of incorruptibility and imbued with service only for the public good has changed and has been eaten up by the system. Anyway I am just wondering aloud but surely she has become part of this delay that works against the public good and exposes the COA to speculations of graft. Did Mendoza hoodwink us as well?
The COA in the province had endorsed the contract for approval and the Regional Office of COA had done the same. These endorsements logically tell us that these two COA offices found nothing wrong or illegal or improper in the deal.
If something was wrong surely these offices would have informed Governor Alfredo Marañon of the lapses or additional documentation needed or whatever are to be done that would make them endorse the contract to higher office. Unless these two levels of COA – province and region - are incompetent, which I believe they are surely not. Any sane person can see that, and in fact I commend them for their speedy appraisal of the project as sane people would have done unless there is vested, personal interest that exerted pressure that this project does not push through.
I think that the normal steps taken by these two COA offices suggest everything was in order and there was no pressure or vested interest involved or, if there was any, they did what is right and legal.
So the question of what could be probably wrong has puzzled the people of this province. Most people, media especially, specialists in speculation, do not even have any speculation. They simply are in the dark. COA’s inaction, despite the constitutional mandate for it to decide is being ignored or simply trampled upon by the gods in COA. Something is wrong somewhere.
So, why is there undue delay?
When I wrote a series for COA’s impeachment, I studied several documents assiduously. This is an issue one does not trifle with without basis because so much is at stake.
These documents can provide answers to our puzzle, the only logical reason why COA is sitting on the project or consciously throwing obstacles to it, like creating a team to study the prices eight months after the papers were submitted and despite follow-ups.
Let’s take a look at Pulido-Tan, not in the eyes of the employees which was rather biting, but from existing official and published documents. In fact, I invite Pulido-Tan or any other speaking in her behalf to dispute or to show that these documents are faked.
If she does not then I can assume they are true indeed and she waives her right to dispute. A refutation would open to better dialog and understanding of her and family relations with SM companies.
Pulido-Tan, (documents of February 14, 2012), was president of the Tax Management Association of the Philippines (1997-98), the reason that COA employees claim she is more a tax expert than auditor. More importantly she is the founding partner of the Tan Venturanza Valdez law firm. I will continue tomorrow.*
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