The Commission on Audit flagged the Office of the Solicitor General for supposed deficiencies and irregularities under the watch of the past two chiefs, including the Duterte administration’s Jose Calida.
Calida, a longtime Marcos supporter, is rejoining the new administration of Ferdinand Marcos Jr. This time, he will serve as head of COA, a position usually occupied by certified public accountants.
The appointment of Calida, who is not a CPA, was announced on Wednesday, June 29, by incoming press secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles, a day before Marcos’ presidential inauguration.
From 2016 to 2018, the OSG was flagged by COA due to “excessive allowances and honoraria” received by Calida and 15 other lawyers, where the COA report said they have received allowances of more than 50% of their basic salary, which is not allowed.
The allowances made Calida the second top-paid official in the year 2020 next to Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Benjamin Diokno.
The officials said that Section 8 of the Republic Act 9417 or the OSG law does not set the limit on their allowances.
His predecessor, too
Former solicitor general Florin Hilbay was similarly flagged by the COA on a similar issue, according to the commission’s 2016 report.
On social media, some Filipinos and personalities questioned Calida’s appointment citing the COA audit of OSG.
“Giving the position of COA Chair to someone flagged by the agency for excessive bonuses can be likened to giving robbers the combination to the bank vault,” former Presidential Communications Operations Office assistant secretary JR Santiago said in a tweet.
“Yung na-flagged siya ng COA dahil sa mga questionable na increase ng allowance at iba pang items sa OSG, tapos, now, siya pa ang magiging head ng COA under ni Dayunyor? Harap-harapang panggagago na talaga!” user @TondoGirl said in a tweet.
“SolGen Calida, COA’s the most red-flagged government office is now COA chair. LOL,” user @krizzy_kalerqui also said in a tweet.
Human rights lawyer Neri Colmenares meanwhile said Calida is reaping the “long-time reward” of being a “Duterte henchman and a Marcos loyalist.”
“With Calida at the helm of COA, we can expect further dilution of checks and balances, both from the outgoing administration and the incoming regime,” Colmenares said in a tweet.
In 2016, Calida was the official who pushed for the burial of the president-elect’s father, Ferdinand Marcos Sr. at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani.
He had served in various government positions before being appointed as solicitor general. Calida was the undersecretary of the Department of Justice from 2001 to 2004 and is a member of the Dangerous Drugs Board in the same year.