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Who is Heidi Mendoza?

Her face is now splashed on news websites and newspapers, and mentioned in newscasts nationwide. Heidi Mendoza, former auditor of the Commission on Audit (COA), knew her days of living a quiet and anonymous life would come to an end as soon as she testified before the House of Representatives regarding anomalies in the military.

And so that quiet life did end yesterday as she spilled what she knew of anomalous transactions involving top generals of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Such a brave soul, this Heidi Mendoza is.

But who is she really?

On "The Rundown" last night on ANC, we were given a glimpse of this courageous woman.

A policeman's daughter

Mendoza is the daughter of a police officer, and is a reserve officer herself in the military with a rank of lieutenant colonel.

She finished her master's degree in national security administration in 2003 at the National Defense College of the Philippines (NDCP).

After graduating from the NDCP, she was asked by former Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo to investigate anomalies in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
Heidi Mendoza (right) during her graduation at the National Defense College of the Philippines in 2003 with then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (middle).

She worked with the COA for more than 20 years and became an expert in fraud investigations of government transactions.

One case she audited was that of Atty. Zacaria A. Candao, a former governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), who was found to have committed malversation of P21 million in government funds.

According to Mendoza, she was offered money and property just so she will drop the case. Mendoza stood her ground and refused the offer.

The Supreme Court affirmed the conviction of Candao in 2010.

Face to face with Garcia

At the committee hearing at the House of Representatives yesterday, February 1, Mendoza came face to face with former Gen. Carlos Garcia, the former comptroller who reportedly amassed more than P300 million in government funds and who now faces plunder raps.

Mendoza bravely testified before the committee about what she has discovered in the conduct of her audit, and said, "I appeared before this committee if only to tell our fellow Filipino people and the lowly soldiers that hindi lahat ng Pilipino ay corrupt, hindi lahat ng nagtatrabaho sa gobyerno ay naghahanapbuhay lamang at walang paninindigan."

She also testified before the Sandiganbayan for a total of 16 times even after she already resigned from the COA, pointing out that Garcia transferred money from the P200 million UN Fund kept in the AFP's LandBank account to a UCPB account in November 28, 2002.

Mendoza believes the money should have gone to ordinary soldiers.

"I took the responsibility of conducting an audit so as to give honor to the soldiers who with low salary are risking their lives in the defense of the country," she told the House committee yesterday.

A poet's soul

The task of running after corrupt government men is a serious matter and can be a bit frustrating. Lesser mortals would have given up in the face of disheartening trials.

Tough as she is, though, Mendoza has a soft side and revealed that she turns to poetry to vent out her frustrations and to encourage the common soldier.

In her poem "Sundalo Una sa Lahat", she called on soldiers to stand tall and stay true to their oath of service in the face of rampant corruption:

"Sa gitna ng tukso, pangungurakot H'wag kang manghina at manatiling nakatutok sa tunay na layunin"

And this is exactly what Mendoza is doing right now in full view of her countrymen.

By Karen Galarpe,


Anonymous at: February 6, 2011 at 4:22 AM said...

Heidi L. Mendoza has raised a small but bravely-fluttering flag against a dark horizon, through her factual testimony in the Senate and her lyrical poetry addressed to the common Philippine soldiers - akin to Jose Rizal's letters to a troubled citizenry. She has drawn a line in the sand, saying to those hiding in the shadows of greed and dishonesty: "You shall not pass this line anymore". Let us all stand beside her and make sure this line is not further broken.