WITH MODESTO P. SA-ONOY
Now that our attention is not riveted on the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona until it resumes on March 12 and since President Aquino insists that the only reason for this impeachment is to rid the government of shenanigans at the top, it is time to consider impeaching the Chairperson of the Commission on Audit or the any or all of them for the culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust, for starters.
The impeachment of COA will affect us directly and will have a great impact on our lives, our city and province and will test the resolve and sincerity of President Aquino that his government will put an end to corruption and for the agencies of government to walk the straight path – matuwid na daan.
Last week, an exasperated Occidental Governor Alfredo Marañon, Jr. was reported as saying that the long, unreasonable and undue delay of the Commission in acting on the project of the province and Ayala Land Inc. to develop the vacant and non-performing asset of the province violates the Constitution.
My initial research not only confirms this but also that their actuation in this one particular case is a betrayal of public trust as well. I have other leads on other acts that are questionable under our laws and the ethical standards of public officials, but these need to be confirmed and corroborated.
Indeed, the series of events indicate there is culpable violation of the constitution and betrayal of public trust arising from infringement of the ethical standards of public officials. I will leave that to the lawyers to build the charges.
My case is simply a citizen’s sentiment at this kind of official behavior that runs counter to public interest and the policy of the Aquino government by the Commission that was appointed by this president who voluntarily took an oath to stamp out corruption.
I would like to believe that President Aquino is sincere in his promise to clean the government of the corrupt and the inept not with sanctimony but with a desire to leave a legacy of a cleaned government. This belief might be misplaced considering how he treated the cases of his other presidential appointees but the case of the COA is an entirely different matter, first because it is a constitutional body acting officially to the prejudice of the public interest and its actions run smack against the Constitution and not some pirated video or inappropriate conduct of security aides.
The circumstances in this case are clear.
The price of the land was approved by the COA before the public bidding where ALI won the bid. This means that COA is aware of the project more so because it was cleared by them in accordance with law and the need for transparency in this huge contract.
After the bidding the project and all the legal requirements were complied with, the province submitted the contract to COA for approval of two documents – deed of conditional sale and contract of lease. The Provincial COA went over them and favorably endorsed them to the region and the region did likewise and forwarded them to the Commission’s head office in Quezon City.
The papers went through the gauntlet since July 22, 2011 and I understand that the papers were forwarded to the COA national office in August that year.
The governor had already sent three follow-up letters but COA did not bother to extend to the governor the basic courtesy of a reply despite the provisions of law that public officials should respond within 15 days, not necessarily its decision but at least an acknowledgement. COA simply ignored the letters without apparent reason. Even the provincial COA is surprised at this inaction.
I can understand if the first letter “lost” its way in which case the COA is also liable for infidelity in the custody of public documents. All three letters cannot be lost in a government office that is extremely strict about documents and had sent so many minor government employees to join the army of the unemployed and shamed for this lapse alone.
The magnitude of the project should underscore the imperative that COA should act with greater care and judiciousness and promptness that other government agencies are required. If COA requires strict compliance with the law, so it must act more strictly in accordance with law. Those who exact high standards of behavior should comply with those same high standards with greater measure.
There are talks that SM is blocking the project in COA. These are only talks but, granting that indeed SM filed an official opposition, should not COA have informed the governor so the provincial government can controvert SM’s allegations? But COA did not, which raises the possibility that there is truth to certain claims about questionable behavior. I will continue tomorrow.*
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