Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has criticized the excessive spending of the Office of the President (OP) whose expenses in 2017 were 500 percent higher than in 2016.
De Lima, the staunchest critic of the administration’s war on drugs, considered the huge increase in the expenses of the OP for 2017 as “unconscionable, scandalous, and extravagant.”
“Parang tumatae ba ng pera ang Pilipinas at mga Pilipino, para gumastos ng walang pakialam ang Malacañang sa perang pinaghirapan ng mga Pilipino?” she lamented in her recent Dispatch from Crame No. 341.
In its annual report, the Commission on Audit (COA) noted that the OP spent P14.9 billion in maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) in 2017, compared to P2.3 billion in 2016. This shows that Mr. Duterte’s office spent 500 percent more in 2017 than it did in 2016.
De Lima noted that the astronomical increase in the President’s budget includes the use of intelligence funds, which may have been used to support his administration’s intensified anti-narcotics campaign.
“Is this where the budget for monetary incentives in the PNP’s drug war quota comes from? Are we actually funding death squads and summary executions through the President’s discretionary intelligence funds?” she asked.
It may be recalled that during the plenary debate of the 2017 national budget, De Lima had questioned the ballooning allocation of confidential and intelligence funds under the OP.
Confidential funds are for surveillance activities in civilian government agencies to support its mandate, while intelligence expenses are for intelligence information-gathering of the military, police and intelligence agents on matters of national security.
De Lima, who chairs the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development, urged Mr. Duterte to be sensitive to the dire situation of the poor who can hardly afford to buy food and other basic commodities.
“Pangulong Duterte, hindi na po makabili ng pagkain ang mga mahihirap nating kababayan, pero para pa ring mga prinsipe at prinsesa kung gumastos ang iyong opisina, pera na hindi man lang ninyo pinaghirapang kitain at ipunin,” she said.
“Sinasadya ba ninyong ibangkarote ang pamahalaan, o talagang napakamanhid lang ng iyong mga tauhan?” she added.
The Senator from Bicol also reminded Congress anew of its constitutional mandate to exercise its oversight function and be the check and balance against the many excesses of the Executive Branch.
“Congress should not allow itself to be the enabler of illegal and criminal acts of the Executive by blindly approving an indefensibly huge discretionary budget for the Office of the President,” she said.
“Sobra na ito. Ginigisa ang sambayanan sa sariling mantika, at tila walang pumapalag, kabilang ang mga representante ng Kongreso na dapat nagbabantay sa kaban ng bayan,” she added.