Duterte asks COA to allow P5 million "unauthorized" fund transfer for Muslim hajj
President Rodrigo Duterte said on Thursday the Commission on Audit, an independent body, should allow the "unauthorized" transfer of P5 million by the Task Force Bangon Marawi to the travel expenses of some Muslims from war-torn Marawi City in their pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia.
Duterte made the call in a speech during the 2019 Eid'l Fitr celebration in New Matina, Davao City.
"So, I am asking COA to reconsider. What is five million? Actually that five million is worth billions in terms of your kind, I said generosity, to finance the poor people, the Muslim to go to hajj," he said.
Duterte said for the Muslims, going to hajj is more important than building them five mansions.
"Now, I'm telling COA, don't imprison (TFBM chair Eduardo) Del Rosario, because if you imprison him, I will also be sued, also Inday (Sara Duterte-Carpio)," he said.
He noted that since 1988 when he became mayor of Davao City, the local government has been supporting some Muslims in the hajj and Sara has continued it now that she is the mayor of the city.
"I kept on sending. I started with 10, then 20. Since 1988 and Inday is doing - is still doing it. Now if you're (COA) going to ask me to reimburse it, where will I get the money. I'd rather be jailed," Duterte said.
"Over the years, it’s not a financing of a religious journey. Do not take in that sense, that there is a separation of Church and State. Take it as a pacification campaign for after all, we are natives man here and we were subjugated," he added.
In the 2018 audit report, COA said the P5 million was "not among the authorized expenses" in the memorandum of agreement executed by the Office of the President and the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council. HUDCC transferred the fund to the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos.
Del Rosario, who also heads HUDCC, has said the purpose of the transfer of fund was for social healing of the victims of Marawi siege in 2017.
COA has recommended to HUDCC to refrain from charging unrelated expenses to the TFBM Fund and see to it all disbursements from the trust fund were in accordance with the intended purpose.
It also asked HUDCC to refund or return the transferred fund to TFBM. Celerina Monte/DMS