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The Constitutions Framework for Addressing Misuse of Public Funds

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes P. A. Sereno Supreme Court of the Republic of the Philippines

the Constitution also provides a practical framework for addressing issues of governance. The constitutional framework is practical because it describes with sufficient clarity, the process by which accountability over public funds is to be ensured. And, with respect to the constitutional requirement on fidelity over public resources, statutes have been enacted in line with the Constitution Within this framework, the people, including public officials, can collectively strengthen the rule of law, as its elements will be scrupulously observed on an operational level.

Responsibilities of COA as State Auditor

Determine discharge of fiscal responsibility Develop comprehensive audit program Institute control measures Enhance information value of accounts of govt by promulgating rules of govt accounting Issue rules to prevent irregular, unnecessary, extravagant expenditures Recommend measures to enhance efficiency and effectivity of government entity audited Correct internal control system inadequacies of audited agency

Powers of COA as State Auditor

Examine all documents re uses of funds, and collection of revenues Visit all non-govt entities that are subsidized or have received any funds from the State, or whose loans are guaranteed by the State Assist in collection of debts owed the State Inspect all documents re use of public funds, and even books of public utilities, but only in connection with the public aspect of the said entitity Submit annual reports on the entities audited Conduct pre-audit and special audits

Powers of the COA

investigate and conduct inquiries, summon parties, and subpoena for testimony and submission of documents; punish for contempt as under the Rules of Court; conduct random and periodic inspections, including ocular ones; temporarily seize local treasuries in case of cash shortages place under constructive distraint personal property of accountable officer

Powers of Investigation and Prosecution for Misuse of Public Funds

The first set of powers is in the Executive Department: Dept of Justice: National Bureau of Investigation National Prosecution Service The second set of powers is in the Ombudsman The third specialized set of powers is in the AntiMoney Laundering Council

Powers of the Ombudsman

Investigate act of public employee when such act appears illegal, unjust, improper or inefficient Order a public employee to perform and expedite any act or duty required by law, or to stop, prevent, and correct any abuse or impropriety in the performance of duties Direct the taking of appropriate action against a public official or employee at fault, and recommend removal, suspension, demotion, fine, censure, or prosecution. Request assistance or information from any government agency and examine any pertinent document in its possession. Determine the causes of inefficiency, red tape, mismanagement, fraud, and corruption

The Role of the Judiciary

The judiciary is prohibited from making decisions based on political considerations, not even in order to conform to public sentiment, especially in criminal proceedings. The public should understand it is the duty of the appropriate bodies, the executive and the Ombudsman, to ensure that the law they invoke and the evidence they present suffice to authorize the judiciary to arrest, detain and convict. The judiciary must remain deaf, even to the public clamor for conviction, and can only hear what is appropriately brought before its halls of justice. That is why it is allimportant that the country must have a judiciary that is populated by independent, competent judges who live in constant mortal fear of not doing what is right.

Three Principles Needing Further Operationalization

Measure Performance

Three Principles that Need Further Operationalization

Performance in public service must be measured not only through a financial audit but also through KPIs or KRAs Independence of the 3 Constitutional bodies COA, CSC and COMELEC, the Ombudsman and the Judiciary must be strengthened in all aspects. Reporting by COA on audited agencies, but also by the agencies themselves must be taken seriously, and it is suggested that Congress and the President review these reports with the requisite thoroughness and responsiveness.

Concluding Remarks
While the freedom to express outrage over perceived anomalies is part of the guaranteed freedoms of the sovereign people, it is not only this collective vocal expression but the proper functioning of the constitutional and statutory bodies that are mandated to address the misuse of public funds, that make for a truly functioning democracy, one where the rule of law prevails. Therein lies the Filipinos potential to experience genuine constitutionalism.

Concluding Remarks
What would we give up to make our democracy work? How much toil and quiet hard work will we put in so that every office charged with the duty to make our system of governance work finally function in an organized and coordinated way? How much of this monitoring of projects, this demanding for reports, this plodding through the maze of documents that are produced, are we willing to do day in and day out until accountability is finally integrated into the very fabric of the lives of private citizens and public officials? How deeply do we believe that we can only shape our destiny as a people if we are willing to build in with painstaking patience, every nut, screw, bolt, and brick that make for a modern accountable government? In the end, how much do we really love our country?

Maraming Salamat Po.