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Philippines whistle-blower to oversee war on graft

MANILA, April 5, 2011 (AFP) – The Philippines on Tuesday named an accountant who has lived under witness protection since exposing alleged large-scale graft in the military to oversee its battle on government corruption, officials said.

Heidi Mendoza would take over as chief of the independent Commission on Audit for the next seven years, said Ricky Carandang, spokesman for Philippine President Benigno Aquino, who swept to power last year on an anti-graft ticket.

“Ms. Mendoza as we’ve seen, has proven that she is very serious about anti-corruption and we believe that she will continue the efforts for good governance,” Carandang told reporters.

Mendoza testified at a public inquiry in parliament this year into allegations of massive graft by top generals in the armed forces.

The appointment of Mendoza, who gained huge support after testifying, is seen as a boost for Aquino.

As Commission on Audit chief, Mendoza will play a key role in Aquino’s campaign to uncover alleged abnormalies during the nine-year term of predecessor and arch-rival Gloria Arroyo.

The commission is tasked with examining all government spending contracts.

Mendoza previously led a team of government investigators auditing military contracts that allegedly involved the misuse and theft of military pension funds and money allotted to modernise the army.

The controversy has been cited as a potential trigger for the shooting death in February of former defense minister Angelo Reyes, some of whose former subordinates were named by Mendoza in her depositions.

The authorities ruled that the former official, who was found shot to death at his parents’ grave, had committed suicide.

Corruption watchdog Transparency International last year ranked the Philippines at 134th out of 178 countries in its Corruption Perceptions Index, equal with Bangladesh and Nigeria but just above Pakistan, Iran and Libya.

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