Proof of PGMA's costly travels presented

by Maria Althea Teves, abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak

Posted at Aug 18 2009 04:08 PM | Updated as of Aug 19 2009 05:01 AM

MANILA - An opposition congressman on Tuesday challenged House Speaker Prospero Nograles to form a special committee to investigate the travel expenses of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Bukidnon 2nd District Rep. Teofisto “TG” Guingona, III said that if Nograles rejects his proposal then “it just shows that he himself benefits from this system.”

He said the special committee could be under the “Congressional Oversight Committee, appropriations committee...maraming committee ang pwedeng pailaliman ng special investigative committee (there are a lot of committees that could handle the special investigative committee)."

Guingona also presented a report of the Commission on Audit (COA) to prove his allegation last Friday that the Office of the President overspent its travel budget from 2002 to 2008 by P1.3 billion.

Nograles on Monday said Guingona had exaggerated his estimate of the President’s travel expenses.

But Guingona said “these are the figures of the government itself.”

He told reporters at a press conference on Tuesday that he got his data from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and the COA.

Audit briefing for Speaker

Guingona said Nograles was not present during the special presentation of the COA to the Office of the Speaker last August 12, 2009. COA officials showed that there was an overspending of P120 million in 2008 in the Office of the President’s contingency fund.

He said Nograles' absence may be the reason why the Speaker told media that Guingona overstated his allegations.
 
The appropriated budget for the 2008 contingency fund was P800 million, but the Office of the President actually spent P920 million in 2008.

Guingona said the General Appropriations Act of 2009 has a special provision that allows the President to get from the contingency fund for her local and foreign travels.

“It [contingency fund] is for emergencies, for the use of the people, not for the capricious travels of the government,” he said.

He again stressed the importance of a special investigative committee, to be led by Nograles himself, to look into overspending of the government’s contingency fund.

“The budget is part of the law. If you spend more than the allotted budget then you are going against the law," Guingona said.

“Do your homework,” Guingona told Nograles. “Being the leader of the Lower House, the Speaker should initiate the investigation." 

Travel Budget

According to data from the DBM, there was an overspending in travel expenses, for both local and international destinations, since 2002. There was no data given on the regular budget for travel expenses under the Office of the President in 2001.



Source:  Dep’t. of Budget and Management - Budget of Expenditures and Sources of Financing  (DBM-BESF)
(Data presented by Bukidnon 2nd District Representative Teofisto “TG” Guingona)


Guingona said overspending the travel budget is not against the law since there is a contingency fund.

He added that since there is overspending in the contingency fund, it should be investigated by the Lower House.

Administrative Order 103

Rep. Guingona slammed the President for going against her own Administrative Order 103, which was adopted as an austerity measure.

The order states that no official can travel without the permission of the President. 

“Siya mismo lumabag sa administrative order niya (She, herself, went against her own administrative order),” he said.

The fact there was an overspending in the contingency fund meant that the government has no respect for the rule of law, Guingona said. “This has to stop,” he added.