De Lima seeks probe on BI’s loss of P869 M in ‘express lane’ charges

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Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has sought a legislative inquiry into the Bureau of Immigration’s (BI) misinterpretation of Mr. Duterte’s veto on the use of the funds to pay for its employees which resulted to its loss of P869.24 million last year.

De Lima filed Senate Resolution No. 839 urging the appropriate Senate committee to inquire into the agency’s apparent failure to collect “express lane” charges from June to December 2017.

“There has to be a level of accountability from the officials who committed this gross misinterpretation of law, less we continue to suffer from imprudence or intentional misfeasance by our public officials tasked with implementing our laws,” she said.

In 2016, Mr. Duterte vetoed the proposed use of express lane charges collected by the BI for the salaries of its casual, contractual, confidential and job-order personnel, which include payment for overtime and for health insurance premium.

Misinterpreting the executive veto, the BI stopped collecting express lane charges effective June 2017.

In its 2017 audit report, the Commission on Audit (COA) found out that the BI lost P869.24 million for misinterpreting Mr. Duterte’s veto message and stopping the imposition of express lane charges.

The COA emphasized “it is only the use of express lane charges collected that was vetoed by the President and not the collection from express lane charges.”

The former justice secretary pointed out that BI’s gross misinterpretation of the President’s veto message costs the government a substantial amount in revenues which could have been translated into programs and projects.

The Senator from Bicol also underscored the importance of crafting legislation to ensure accountability for gross misinterpretation of the law by public officials who are tasked to enforce them.

“There is a need to look into the current laws and regulations among our revenue generating offices to ensure that there are sufficient safeguards against losses brought about by misappreciation of laws and similar acts or omissions,” she said.

The BI collected P568.52 million between January and May 2017, but the COA noted that only P56.85 million of that amount was recognized in the General Fund, contrary to the President’s instruction. Meanwhile, the remaining P511.67 million was recorded under the Trust Liabilities account.

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