De Lima urges Congress to investigate depletion of passport revolving fund

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Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has called for a Senate investigation into the reported depletion of the Department of Foreign Affairs’ (DFA) Passport Revolving Fund (PRF) which is allotted for the improvement of its passporting and consular services and other department services.

De Lima filed Senate Resolution (SR) No. 629 stressing that the public’s right to information demands for a full disclosure on the true nature of the depletion of the PRF as a violation of law, especially when no less than DFA Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. has exposed the questionable circumstances that led to the dwindling of the said fund.

“A thorough investigation on the depletion of the PRF which has been particularly earmarked for specific purposes under the law must be made in order to determine the validity of acts that led to the utilization thereof for purposes other than that contemplated by the law, and to hold accountable those responsible for the violation of law,” she said.

Last Jan. 20, Locsin informed the public through his Twitter account that DFA’s entire PRF is “gone” and that its arrears to the APO Production Unit, the country’s passport printing contractor, had reached P388 million.

“[A]pparently the fund was eaten up by travel allowances(huh?), insurance, miscellany(what?),” part of his Tweet read.

De Lima noted that Locsin’s revelation that the PRF was utilized for travel allowances is a clear violation of the Philippine Passport Act of 1996 which prohibits the use of PRF for travel and transportation allowances and expenses.

“As public accountability demands, the DFA must justify why they opted to utilize the PRF for travel expenses when the law explicitly prohibits the same,” she said.

“Impugning the legality of the apparent misalignment of public funds and misuse of the DFA PRF is necessary to determine the laws violated, those who have perpetrated such violations, and to avoid a similar incident from occurring,” she added.

The lady Senator from Bicol, likewise, maintained that the cutting off by the DFA of foreign travels without any serious investigation that will look into the depletion of its PRF is not sufficient.

“At a time when the public coffers are most fragile, it is imperative that a thorough investigation into the consummation of the said acts that led to the depletion of the PRF be conducted, and that a stern warning be given in order to prevent the repetition of the wrongful disbursement of public funds, and the deflection of the same to any improper purpose,” she said.

The Commission on Audit’s Annual Audit Report on the DFA for the year 2019 revealed that the DFA’s local Traveling Expenses was at ₱6,621, 264.72 in 2018 and ₱5,271,752.11 in 2019; while its foreign Traveling Expenses was at ₱598, 711,164.67 in 2018 and ₱510,913,609.62 in 2019. The COA likewise flagged the failure to remit to the National Treasury as of Dec. 31, 2019 the interest earned from various accounts under the PRF at the Home Office totaling ₱417,709.36.

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