BY ROGER M. BALANZA
“They want me to account for assets bought 75 years ago.”
The charge of the alleged P2.9 billion missing assets of the Davao City government assets leveled against the Duterte administration by Speaker Prospero Nograles and former mayor Benjamin de Guzman is the biggest joke in this election season.
The alleged missing assets included those bought since 1936, and blamed on Mayor Rodrigo Duterte because the Commission on Audit (COA) allegedly said the assets could not be accounted for.
But the alleged COA report purportedly showing the irregularity is a forgery crafted by Nograles and de Guzman, according to Mayor Duterte.
On television yesterday, Mayor Duterte made fun of Nograles and de Guzman, saying they are accusing him of absconding properties bought during “Magellan’s time and during the administration of past mayors.”
Mayor Duterte said the COA report showing the alleged irregularity being peddled by Nograles and de Guzman is fake and black propaganda fueled by the coming elections.
Nograles is running against Vice Mayor Sara Duterte in the mayoral race, while de Guzman is facing up to Mayor Duterte in the vice mayoral contest.
The COA annual report on assets include years before my administration, dating back to 1936, Mayor Duterte said. How could I account for them? he said.
The past weeks, de Guzman has been challenging City Hall to explain the anomaly, waving documents purportedly coming from the COA. Mayor Duterte has dismissed de Guzman’s claim and had dared him to file charges instead of going to media.
Yesterday, he met the issue head-on.
Mayor Duterte said the COA audit report on the alleged missing government equipment and other assets included properties owned or bought by the local government since 1936, the year when Davao earned its city hood.
Nograles and de Guzman might as well also charge the late city mayors Carmelo Porras and Elias Lopez and former city mayor Luis Santos for the alleged missing properties, said Mayor Duterte at the Gikan sa Masa Para sa Masa television program on ABS/CBN.
The mayor said the COA annual reports on assets include properties that acummulated through the years, and mayors like him could not account for them because there has been no proper audit for these properties before their time.
In my time, all properties are accounted for, said Mayor Duterte. He said on top of the city government’s auditors, the COA resident auditor at City Hall conducts annual audits and reviews of local government expenditures and assets.
Had there been missing assets during my more than 20 years as mayor, the COA could have already filed charges against me, said the mayor.
Na-preso na unta ko (Otherwise I could already have been jailed), he said.
He said the COA website, www.coa.gov.ph, spells out details of its financial audit of the Davao City government. The website would also show that Nograles’ and de Guzman’s claim of missing properties included those bought or acquire several decades before he started his term in 1988.
Mayor Duterte said he went to COA to verify the alleged missing properties. COA confirmed that the report included properties before his administration that acummulated since 1936.
Councilor Mabel Acosta who co-anchors the ABS/CBN television program said the COA website in fact showed that Davao City had been assessed with an 84% compliance to COA recommendations, several notches above the 80% compliance of most Philippine cities.
Osmena Park and Rizal Park, which has no land title in favor of the local government could be included in the list of missing properties, said the mayor.
Mayor Duterte earlier said the alleged COA documents being waved as evidence by the Nograles camp were fake and printed by two local printing firms.
In the Gikan sa Masa program, he explained how Nograles and de Guzman are trying to deceive the public with the fake documents: from the COA report, they picked out the total amount representing acummulated “missing” assets since 75 years ago and then manufactured a fake COA report indicating that the assets went missing under the Duterte administration.
Black propaganda, said Mayor Duterte.
What is shameful in this forgery is that the administration of de Guzman was not included in the fake COA report apparently to make a saint out of de Guzman.
Wala gi-apil si de Guzman (The De Guzman administration was not included in the fake COA report), said the mayor, to emphasize that the report was being used to paint him black.
Mayor Duterte made de Guzman his city administrator in 1989 and then carved his political career to make him vice mayor in 1995. He is credited with de Guzman’s victory over Nograles in 1998, then beat him in his reelection bid in 2001.
If you believe the lies, then didto mo sa ilaha, Mayor Duterte said after baring the truth about the Nograles propaganda over the missing assets.