SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau
Deliberations of the House committee on good government chaired by Rep. Johnny Ty Pimentel on Tuesday sought to investigate allegations raised by Sandra Cam of lavish expenditure on the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) Christmas Party in 2017.
Cam, a PCSO board member, said the proposed budget for the EDSA Shangri-la Hotel party was more than P10.28 million. Actual expenses amounted to over P6.47 million, leaving about P3.81 million unutilized. However, Cam said the cash advance released for the party was over P10.68 million. This translates to a P404,000 discrepancy between the cash advance and proposed budget.
She said PCSO General Manager Alexander Balutan scolded her when she confronted him about the high cost and proposed the party be held at a cheaper venue.
“At ang sabi niya sakin, ‘Walang pwedeng magpintas sa akin because I’m the general manager.’ S’ya ang makakapagsabi when and where, so I stopped,” Cam said.
Balutan and other resource speakers from PCSO defended the expenses, explaining the party was meant to reward and recognize the hard work of over 1,000 PCSO employees. He further said that the money was sourced from operational funds of PCSO.
In particular, lawmakers questioned why P16,000 was spent just for the party’s Thanksgiving Mass. Pimentel said that it was a waste of funds and violates existing laws.
“Una, you cannot use government money to be given to the Church. That’s clearly stipulated in the Constitution. Bawal na bawal po iyon, nasa separation of power po ‘yon,” he said.
Pimentel said the Commission on Audit (COA) should be invited to the next committee meeting to explain how the P16,000 stipend for the officiating priest be liquidated.
He added that the cash advance authorized by Balutan was a violation of COA Memorandum Circular No. 92-382 as cash advances should only be approved for salaries and wages, commutable allowances, honorarium and other similar payments of official employees, and petty operating expenses.
“There is never any provision that says you can make cash advance, lalo na ‘yung P10 million, para gamitin sa Christmas party,” Pimentel said.
Also discussed during the deliberations were the various charges of corruption and anomalies in the PCSO.
“At the end of the day, sa losing end nito ang ating mahihirap. PCSO was saying nagkaroon sila, they registered a record-high earning in 2017 earning P52.9 billion. Kaya ang tanong natin dito, sa P52.9 billion na iyan, kung totoong record-high ‘yan, magkano naman ang ibinalik ninyo sa charity?” said Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate.
Rep. Romeo Acop said PCSO has failed to live up to its mandate given that less than half of the generated PCSO revenue was earmarked as the charity fund. This fund received further deductions, such as printing expenses.
Among those present during the inquiry were Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas, Minority Leader Danilo Suarez and Reps. Alfredo Garbin, Jr., Gabriel Bordado, Jr., Rodante Marcoleta, Pablo Ortega, and others. | CMBE