The Philippines ranked tenth (10th) out of 117 countries for budget transparency according to results of the 2019 Open Budget Survey (OBS) conducted by the International Budget Partnership (IBP). The country garnered a score of 76 in the area of budget transparency.

The country also scored high in audit oversight with 89 points. Audit oversight together with legislative oversight form one of the areas assessed by the OBS.

The IBP said the OBS is the world’s only independent and comparative measure of fiscal transparency, public participation, and oversight at the central government level. The OBS evaluates three areas: public access to relevant information on key budget documents, public participation in the budget process, and assurance of budget oversight by independent legislatures and audit institutions.

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Commission on Audit (COA) auditors Mae Diane M. Azores and Myra M. Baranda of COA Regional Office No. V topped the 2019 Bar Examinations. Azores ranked first with a score of 91.0490% and Baranda was third with a score of 88.8250%. Both are from the University of Sto. Tomas-Legazpi (formerly Aquinas University) and are Certified Public Accountants.

Azores is a State Auditing Examiner II and an audit team member of CAAP Area Center 5, Corporate Government Sector (CGS), Cluster 4, COA Regional Office No. V. Meanwhile, Baranda has been with the Commission for the last five years and is assigned at the Daraga City auditing unit.

“My warmest congratulations to Attys. Azores and Baranda and all the Bar passers from the Commission on Audit. As you enjoy the fruit of your hard work, I encourage you to uphold justice especially for those who have less in life and live with integrity and professionalism. You have made all of us in the COA family proud,” said COA Chairperson Michael G. Aguinaldo.

In an interview with DZMM, Azores said she prepared for the examinations by waking up daily at 4 am and studying for more than ten hours. "No dream is ever big, especially po sa provincial schools. We can always dream bigger. Kung iisipin talaga natin, kung kaya talaga, kaya talaga siya. Tiwala lang sa Diyos. Dasal lang talaga," Azores said in another interview with ABS-CBN News.

Baranda, for her part, said in an interview with Rappler that she wanted to remain as an auditor for the people and that she owed a lot to COA for letting her stay in Albay which allowed her to go to law school. “Ang gusto ko sa pagiging state auditor, yung interaction sa tao, naririnig mo yung hinaing nila, ever time na nag-thank you sila, fulfilling sa ‘yo na nakatulong ka in a small way,” Baranda said to Rappler.

According to the Supreme Court, there were 2,103 successful examinees out of the 7,685 who completed the Bar exams.

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It is with a mixture of pride, gratitude and hope that I greet the entire Commission on Audit (COA) family as we remember the 121st anniversary of our beloved institution. Since the creation of the Office of the Auditor for the Philippine Islands through a Memorandum signed by then United States President William McKinley on 8 May 1899, the Commission has ensured a healthy measure of prudence in governance through the judicious use of public funds.

It is heartening to be reminded that we are part of an institution that has helped build a strong and independent nation that cares for the welfare of its people. In these challenging times, the Commission has wholeheartedly supported the programs of government in curbing the further spread of COVID-19. We have done our share in helping those vulnerable in this time of calamity, for instance, with the issuance of a joint circular with the Department of Budget and Management allowing contractual workers in government agencies to continue receiving their wages throughout the period of work suspension during the quarantine. We have issued circulars and memoranda providing guidance on matters such as procurement, fund transfers, and donations in order not to unduly hamper government efforts at addressing the current crisis. We have also guaranteed that our workers will get their salaries on time and to augment their resources in this time of need.

I sincerely pray for everyone’s safety and for our renewed focus, once the quarantine is done, to help our nation get back on track.

As we humbly celebrate the Commission’s 121st anniversary in the safety of our homes, I encourage everyone to mark this occasion with grateful hearts and a fresh determination to give our best as guardians of public funds and enablers of government in the efficient and effective delivery of public service for the Filipino people. Let us be thankful for the blessings we have received and continue to receive. And may the Lord hold you safe in the palm of His hand.

I would like to end this message with a few lines from Max Ehrmann’s Desiderata:

 

“You are a child of the universe,

no less than the trees and the stars;

you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you,

no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

 

Therefore be at peace with God,

whatever you conceive Him to be,

and whatever your labors and aspirations,

in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

 

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,

it is still a beautiful world.

Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.”

 

Stay safe.

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As the Commission on Audit celebrates its 121st Anniversary during these difficult and increasingly challenging times brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, I am greeting everyone with a meaningful and purposeful anniversary.

I would like to take this opportunity to call for unity amongst COAns to pray for those who are suffering, who have lost their loved ones and to heal as one as we hope that this crisis that brought enormous changes to our lives will soon come to pass. Let us also take this time to rest our bodies and minds, meditate and renew our faith for we have much work to do in the coming days.

The Commission continues to be a partner of our country's fight against the unseen enemy who has brought global fears about health, the financial situation, and safety. We are doing our part to help those in need and to continuously safeguard our country's coffers, especially those government funds intended to respond to the current pandemic. As there is much work to be done in auditing COVID-19 funds, I am calling on our auditors and everyone to remain vigilant and to perform our mandated duties without fear or favor.

I hope that everyone will be able to take pride in how they responded to these challenges we are now facing.

On our 121st Anniversary, let us continue to support the government's fight against COVID-19. Stay safe and stay well.

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Commission on Audit (COA) Chairperson Michael G. Aguinaldo and Commissioner Roland C. Pondoc with Calamba Representative Joaquin M. Chipeco, Jr., Calamba City Mayor Justin Marc SB. Chipeco and COA Regional Director Mario G. Lipana led the groundbreaking ceremony for the Provincial Satellite Auditing Office (PSAO) for the Province of Laguna in Calamba City on 11 February 2020.

Chairperson Aguinaldo expressed his gratitude to the City Government of Calamba, noting the good relationships between the local government and the Commission in the delivery of public service, and in promoting interdependence among government agencies. He said COA empowers and enables government agencies to effectively and efficiently carry-out their mandates to their constituents. He also emphasized principles of pakikipag-usap at pakikipagtulungan between the Commission and government agencies to better deliver public services.

Commissioner Pondoc reiterated the Chairperson’s message, noting that the Commission is an enabler of auditees in good governance.

Meanwhile, Mayor Chipeco and Congressman Chipeco, Jr., said that the establishment of the Regional Government Center in Calamba where the PSAO will be located will bring basic services nearer to constituents and pledged to refurbish the surrounding area. Director Lipana and Assistant Director Maria Oliva V. Ortega expressed their appreciation and gratitude for the assistance provided by the City Government and the COA Commission Proper in the development of the PSAO.

Also in attendance was Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Region IV-A Director Samson L. Hebra who commended the Commission in recognizing their role and assistance in the construction of the PSAO. The event was also attended by officials, auditors and personnel from the COA Central and Regional Offices and officials and personnel from the City Government of Calamba and DPWH Region IV-A.

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