PALACE ASKED TO EXPLAIN P832-M UNUSED CASH/ PALACE EXEC N0-SHOW AT SENATE HEARING

[PHOTO  - PLLO chief Manuel Mamba PHOTO FROM CONGRESS.GOV.PH]

MANILA, AUGUST 16, 2012 (INQUIRER)By Cathy Yamsuan - The glaring absence of a Cabinet secretary in the hearing of his department’s 2013 budget raised suspicion that he was avoiding Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile with whom he has a longstanding feud in Cagayan province.

Two undersecretaries took the place of Secretary Manuel Mamba, chief of the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office (PLLO), who was supposed to be present to defend its proposed P35.4 million budget for next year.

Cabinet heads are tacitly required to personally defend their departments’ budgets especially in case a senator has questions about how funds would be spent.

An apparently clueless Senator Loren Legarda complained that she wanted Mamba to explain why the bill creating the P1 billion People’s Survival Fund for calamity victims has remained unsigned by President Aquino.

Legarda insists the bill should be signed into law to indicate Malacañang’s sincerity and clear intent to help victims of the southwest monsoon that ravaged Metro Manila and outlying provinces last week.

“There should be a little ceremony at least,” she suggested.

Senate finance chairman Franklin Drilon told Legarda in jest that Enrile would later explain to her “in executive session” why Mamba was absent.

“That closed-door meeting would only be between the two of you. Leave me out of it,” Drilon said with a grin.

Mamba’s no-show was made more noticeable by the presence of Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. and Julia Abad, chief of the Presidential Management Staff, who both came to the Senate to defend their offices’ 2013 budgets.

Observers also noted Enrile’s presence in the hearing. The Senate President usually does not attend budget hearings.

Senate insiders believe Mamba, an erstwhile Enrile protégé, wanted to avoid a confrontation with the Senate President with whom he has an ongoing quarrel in Cagayan province.

In the latest episode of this provincial drama, Mamba allegedly resented Enrile’s support for another candidate for a local position in Cagayan in 2010.

Enrile’s bet won, leaving Mamba hurting and in near-obscurity until he was appointed chief of PLLO after the one-year ban on the appointment of losing candidates.

Mamba’s rant against Enrile in 2010 can be viewed on YouTube.

Enrile told Legarda during the hearing that under the law, a pending bill would be considered signed into law following a lapse of 30 days after it was approved.

“But Malacañang has to show it gives importance to the funding to vulnerable communities,” the inconsolable senator replied.

“I’m just wondering, I have never seen this secretary. Who is the secretary of PLLO? I want to give him my piece of mind,” Legarda said.

Earlier, Ochoa submitted a P2.7-billion spending plan for the Office of the President for 2013.

Abad, on the other hand, has asked for P13 million for PMS’ rationalization plan and the office’s temporary relocation while its current venue is retrofitted.

FROM ABS-CBN

Palace asked to explain P832M unliquidated cash By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News Posted at 08/14/2012 7:05 PM | Updated as of 08/15/2012 2:35 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The Office of the President has unliquidated cash advances worth over P832 million based on a Commission on Audit Report for 2010.

Senate Finance Committee Chair Franklin Drilon asked Executive Secretary Jojo Ochoa about the cash advances during the committee hearing for the 2013 budget proposal of the Office of the President.

Ochoa said that of the amount, only over P533 million remain unliquidated as of end 2011.

Drilon asked Ochoa to submit a breakdown of how much of the advances are from the current and previous administrations.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said that many of these advances were accumulated over the years over the course of different administrations.

Ochoa said there is a continuing process of liquidations and responsible officers are being made accountable. He added that some of these advances are from as far back as 20 years ago.

Ochoa said most of the P500 million that remain unliquidated are cash advances to personnel involved in foreign trips of the former president.

Ochoa committed to submit within the next few days a breakdown of the unliquidated cash advances.

The Office of the President is proposing a P2.7 billion budget for 2013, up by 4.3% or P111 million from 2012 levels. Ochoa attributed this to higher funding for personal services to implement the 4th tranche of the Salary Standardization Law (SSL), as well capital outlays for the rehabilitation of structures and upgrading of equipment.

The Presidential Management Staff (PMS), for its part, proposed a budget of P330 million for 2013, higher by P68.23 million from 2012 levels. Similarly, the increase will go to the SSL implementation, capital outlay for equipment and facilities as well as the relocation of the PMS offices.

The Presidential Legislative Liason Office (PLLO), tasked to shepherd the President's priority agenda in Congress, wants a P35.4 million budget for 2013 to cover personnel, equipment and vehicle replacement. It plans to set up a weekly radio program and its own agency website.

Senator Loren Legarda wondered where the PLLO head, Secretary Manuel Mamba is, since she does not know who he is. The PLLO budget was presented by the PLLO undersecretaries to the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Mamba assumed office in February but Legarda complained she has not seen him. Legarda also asked the PLLO officers why the bill on the People's Survival Fund has not been signed by the President even if it has been transmitted to the OP for his signature last month.

Ochoa committed to prioritize the signing of the measure.

Legarda stressed the importance of the P1 billion fund which can help victims of natural disasters.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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