Joseph Peter Calleja, Manila
Updated: August 18, 2021 09:44 AM GMT
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte receives a Covid-19 vaccination from Secretary of Health Francisco Duque in Manila in May. (Photo: AFP)
Filipino Catholics have paid rich tributes to a state auditor who spearheaded the investigation into the 67.3 billion peso (US$1.35 billion) scam in the country’s Department of Health.
Lawyer Jake Cimafranca, 39, died recently of a heart attack possibly caused by stress brought on by working to examine deficiencies in the use of Covid-19 funds by high-ranking health officials.
Cimafranca served as state auditor of the Commission on Audit (COA), which was mandated by law to examine government funds and expenditure.
Catholics praised the lawyer and his audit team for their bravery.
“Not all heroes wear capes. Some work at the Commission on Audit,” De La Salle Brother Armin Luistro said.
Jesuit Father Albert Alejo praised Cimafranca’s team for having the perseverance to do what duty had called them to do.
Mendoza offered condolences to Cimafranca’s family and the resident audit team in the Department of Health
“We salute those who did their job in the Commission on Audit. Heroes are not only the dead. There are also heroes who are living, those who continue to strive for better and transparent governance,” the Jesuit priest said.
Former COA commissioner Heidi Mendoza wrote in her Facebook post on Aug. 17: “Today I weep for my former colleague. A COA-UN auditor who just died of a heart attack. He is the auditor behind the Department of Health report. Stress can kill. Please let us offer a minute of prayer.”
Mendoza offered condolences to Cimafranca’s family and the resident audit team in the Department of Health while lamenting how Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte had disregarded Cimafranca’s report, saying there was no mishandling of public funds.
Duterte defended the department and his cabinet members and instead rubbished the audit report.
“I do not know but it could run counter to public policy if you don’t publish it [report]. Just to inform the people of what is going on. But to the issue of whether the money has been stolen, that is pure bullshit,” Duterte said on national television on Aug. 16.
The president said he did not believe the report because it is “impossible” to steal 67.3 billion pesos from public coffers.
“Many workers were placed in a bad light because of the COA report. But deficiencies are legal, like this 67.3 billion, like that, people think it was stolen. The money is there,” Duterte said.
But state auditors insisted the deficiencies were caused by non-compliance with pertinent laws, rules and regulations in government spending as mandated by law.
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