This is the second article in a series investigating the corruption allegations against the USG.
Several posts accusing the University Student Government (USG) of corruption surfaced on the DLSU-Manila Secret Files page earlier this September, with different students anonymously claiming that they had witnessed cases of funds being siphoned and stolen by supposedly corrupt members of the USG.
In response, the Executive Board (EB) of the USG held a meeting with various student media groups last month, where they shared that while they did not wish to dismiss the corruption allegations, there was no concrete evidence presented.
The EB promised, however, that several steps were being put into place to ensure that no such issue would take place this year, stating that various policies and systems were being reviewed and refined. This includes the financial and documentation processes under the Student Activities Manual, as well as the USG website, which they hope to use as an avenue for transparency.
Commission on Audit responds
Lester Tan, managing director for Documentations under the Commission on Audit (COA), clarifies the role and function of COA in an interview with The LaSallian. “Lahat ng labas at pasok ng pera, lahat ng mga statements, lahat ng mga receipts, unang papasok yan sa OTREAS (Office of the Treasurer). Then what [COA] does is that we get these documents, we will audit it, then we will see if yung labas and pasok ng pera ay nagmamatch.”
The specific statements audited, according to Tan, are the income statement of the depository fund, the income statement of the operational fund, and the financial book of records.
Tan further shares that while COA might have information or evidence pertaining to the matter, he refers to it as “incomplete,” especially with certain documents still in OTREAS’ possession. Tan shares that COA has yet to do a formal investigation as the unit is currently still in a rebuilding process due to the graduation of several of its veteran members. “Currently, COA is reorganizing [and] training auditors,” he notes, adding that once auditors are appointed, the commission will “really dive into the corruption cases.”
Tan is confident in the ability of new recruits, noting that their new auditors are very well selected from a pool of trainees, with rigid requirements in place to ensure their qualifications for the position.
Furthermore, Tan states that should COA find anything suspicious, they will take action. “If we find something malicious or something wrong after we dive into these cases, then we will ask the counsel of the Judiciary. We will consult with them, we will ask them on what we can do,” he says.
In the past, it was the Office of the Ombudsman that handles these kinds of cases, Tan mentions. “Before 2013, walang COA talaga, so no one was auditing yung mga ginagawa, mga transactions sa USG, ombudsman lang ang may alam,” Tan clarifies.
Meanwhile, Chief Magistrate Frances Lim explains that there is little the current batch of officers can do in connection to the corruption allegations. Lim shares that she got in contact with the administrator of the DLSU-Manila Secret Files page, who confirmed that the original poster was referring to Kayne Litonjua and Rupert Laurel, executive treasurers from academic years 2013-2014 and 2014-2015, respectively. However, all cases in connection to the two, including the ones filed against Laurel for which he was disbarred, were closed as far as the Judiciary was concerned.
“It’s really out of our bounds,” Lim explains. “It would be a dead end, because it’s already closed as far as we’re concerned. It’s not a lack of trying… it’s just, within our powers, there’s really nothing that we can do… It’s now in the SDFO (Student Discipline Formation Office),” she notes.
Lim explains that after the case was forwarded to SDFO, she approached them seeking an update, but only learned that the case was still pending.
However, although there is little that the current officers can do with regard to the issue circulating around social media, Lim confirms that the Judiciary is taking the necessary steps to ensure that the scandal does not repeat itself.
“We’re going to be working a lot more with COA, so that if they need help, it’s already streamlined… If they think that there is [anything suspicious], our student lawyers can be there to help,” Lim explains. She further shares that there are talks to revive the Office of the Ombudsman to help students who are afraid in these situations.
“We have to work together however we can,” Lim shares. “It’s not just us. All the branches are working together so none of this will ever happen again. “
A message to the students
Both Tan and Lim plead to any student who might have information on the case to file a formal report. “We will only dive into these cases if we will receive complaints, so I suggest to those students who are posting these corruption allegations on Facebook, please file within the Judiciary office so that COA will be given a signal to dive into these papers, to these documents… kasi ang usual work naman talaga ng COA is just to audit and file,” Tan explains. “We will cooperate with the Judiciary, so kailangang may mag-file sa Judiciary, then mag-aactivate kami.”
Lim agrees, explaining, “If there will be cases that arise, if there are people that know something, we encourage them to file a case so we can test it out. Because the Judiciary truly is a homage for the student body’s rights, for democracy. We are there to help.”
Both units further that they are doing what they can to ensure that the issue does not repeat itself this year. “[COA] will cooperate with OTREAS… We will try to help this new USG become a good USG for the students, na matulungan yung students. We will always remind them that we are here for the students. We will take it seriously. Hopefully, they cooperate,” Tan concludes.
Lim inputs, “I can tell you for sure that [the Judiciary is] working around what the students want. We’re working with more transparency, we’re working with bringing back the Ombudsman… but at the same time, I would like [the students] to be informed
“The difficult part is that all of that happened when it was already [done], so there was not much to do. So if ever something happens again, it would be best if everyone can be just as enthusiastic as to investigate a case,” Lim concludes.