PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Monday evening, August 16, 2021, downplayed the P67.3 billion deficiencies of the Department of Health (DOH) that the Commission on Audit (COA) flagged in its report.

He said there are no missing or stolen funds, only incomplete documents.

“May mga project tayo, malaking project, so ngayon mayroon talaga ‘yang mga papel-papel na... na hindi masyado makumpleto, ‘yung the completion sa paperwork,” he said in his weekly public address Monday.

“‘Pag mag-ano ang COA, magsabi lang ‘yan siya deficiency na mga gano’n, hindi man sabihin na deficiency na ninakaw mo ‘yung pera. Deficiencies in.. really in producing the necessary documents to complete the story. Imposible magnakaw ka ng P67.3 (billion),” he added.

Duterte said the COA should not publicize an incomplete report to prevent tainting a person or a government agency with “corruption by perception.”

“Ang problema kasi diyan, I said, the paper that they are holding, or papers that they are... in their (COA) custody, are really insufficient and deficient kung kailan ang ano. Huwag ka munang mag-audit hanggang hindi pa natapos ang trabaho ko. Iyan lang naman sana ang hinihingi natin. Do not conduct an audit on our work na ongoing pa kasi dino-document pa ‘yan,” he said.

“You make a report. Do not flag and do not publish it because it will condemn the agency or the person that you are flagging. Eh huwag naman sige kayong flag nang flag. Tapos wala namang napreso, wala naman lahat. And yet you know that when you flag, there is already a taint of corruption by perception,” he added.

The DOH has been in hot water over the alleged “unused and misused” P67.3-billion budget dedicated for the Covid-19 response, including the alleged unpaid compensation and benefits of the frontline healthcare workers who were directly dealing with Covid-19 patients.

Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega, in a press conference earlier Monday and during Duterte’s public address Monday evening, said majority of the deficiencies flagged by COA have already been “resolved” while the others were being complied with.

He said the DOH has released almost P17 billion to its regional offices for the payment of special risk allowances, hazard pay, meal allowance and sickness and death benefits of the healthcare workers in both public and private hospitals.

Vega attributed the delay or unpaid benefits to the verification and certification process of their field offices in order to ensure the eligibility of the recipients.

The DOH has been given 60 days or until September 30 to comply with the COA audit report.

Duterte, however, reminded the DOH to settle matters involving the benefits of healthcare workers.

“Itong frontliners, unahin mo na lang, if there is enough money, bayaran mo,” he said. (SunStar Philippines)