WASHINGTON USA (April 30, 2011) – Pork barrel recipients in the Philippines: be careful, be very careful.
Heidi Mendoza, newly appointed commissioner said the Commission on Audit (COA) is putting into place mechanisms to examine the pork barrel allocations of members of Congress to bring transparency to a process that has been mired in corruption almost from its inception.
She declined to give details or discuss when the audits would start.
Mendoza, invited to attend World Bank discussions on corruption, told a forum attended by mostly Filipino bank employees that the COA was planning to set up a legal fund to take care of the legal expenses of government auditors so as not to inhibit them from doing their jobs.
She said as part of concerted efforts by President Aquino’s administration to fight corruption, a bill has been filed in Congress to strengthen the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) to give it more teeth to investigate and prosecute money laundering offenses.
President Aquino appointed Mendoza as COA commissioner on April 5, the same post she resigned from in 2005 in frustration over the glacial pace of the corruption investigation against former military comptroller Carlos Garcia.
She will take her oath of office on May 23 for a term expiring in February 2018.
A press statement issued by the organizers of the World Bank discussion on “Effective auditing as the bane of grand corruption” described her as a career public official who works tirelessly to identify and root out corruption.
Unable to pursue the case (against Garcia) through the COA, she spoke out to the public, risking her life and career, and her testimony ultimately led to formal charges being filed against Garcia, the statement said.
Mendoza was greeted enthusiastically by World Bank employees when she walked into the conference room accompanied by Sheila Coronel, professor of Investigative Journalism at Columbia University and former executive director of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism.
“Mabuhay ka,” shouted the Pinoys.
Mendoza spoke of the challenges and difficulties and temptations that have faced her over the years in her battle against corruption.
In the early 1990s, she said, during an audit of the governor of the autonomous region of Mindanao, she was offered half-a-million pesos for every time she did not attend a court hearing.
Before flying to Mindanao she was told she would either end up dead or become rich.
“I was not given the opportunity of choosing an option,” she said in a light vein.
She spoke of the numerous times she and her family had to move house, of the difficulty of traveling with six bodyguards and of the treachery of people “I thought had my back.” (philstar.com)