By Ellen Faye Yabut

Cartoon by John Dave Poot

President Rodrigo Duterte said he is aiming for the vice presidency after the end of his term. On top of his to-do list should he become the next VP, according to his own words, will be auditing the Commission on Audit. However, Duterte failed to understand that scrutinizing state auditors is out of the scope of a vice president’s job.

First and foremost, the 1987 Philippine Constitution and the Administrative Code of 1987 state that it is not a mandate of the Office of the Vice President to audit state auditors. Instead, one of the vice president's key functions is to be ready and competent to take over the presidency in case of the incumbent president's death, infirmity, or resignation. The VP may also assume a Cabinet position if offered by the president or serve as an executive committee member in the National Security Council, but nothing beyond that scope is permissible-- at least for the Constitution. 

It is clear that the state has given the power to examine, audit and settle all accounts and expenditures of the funds and properties of the Philippine government to the COA. Its own internal and resident auditors were given the exclusive authority and responsibility to conduct audits of all financial reports of the government including income, expenditure, and uses of the governmental resources. Hence, Duterte can’t simply do so if he becomes vice president. 

Vice President Leni Robredo, who is a lawyer herself, laughed off Duterte's remark of “auditing all of the government.” Moreover, sharing her experience as the daughter of a former vice president, Senator Nancy Binay believes that the VP has no power and function to audit. Indeed, the COA is a constitutionally mandated agency. Duterte has no say on how COA should operate. 

Furthermore, no less than Duterte admitted that he is eyeing the vice presidency merely to gain ‘immunity’ from suit and escape criminal prosecution. Another reason that supposedly motivates Duterte to run for VP is what he believes is the lack of opposition. However, former Supreme Court spokesperson Ted Te and even Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra pronounced that the VP is not immune from suit by law or by tradition. 

Instead of targeting COA as a diversion tactic, Duterte should rather respect and recognize the reports of the constitutional body and support its ongoing investigations on allegations of corruption under his administration. Duterte must make sure that agencies under the executive branch comply with the COA audit reports. Officials who will be found liable for graft, plunder, and corruption should be held accountable.

In a nutshell, until the 1987 Constitution lives, it is the job of COA to audit and certainly not Duterte’s.