Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Officials (PCSO) who approved the disbursement of 10 million pesos for the agency's Christmas party last year violated laws, a lawmaker said Tuesday.
PCSO General Manager Alexander Balutan requested for a cash advance of P10 million to hold a party in a 5-star hotel, documents presented by PCSO board member Sandra Cam during a congressional hearing showed.
"I see that there are violations of existing laws. There is never any provision that says you can make any cash advance lalo na ito 10 million, para gamitin sa Christmas party," House Committee on Good Government chair Johnny Pimentel said.
Under a Commission on Audit memorandum circular, cash advances may only be issued to pay for "salaries and wages, commutable allowances, honorarium for officials and employees, petty operating expenses" up to P10,000.
Cam said a total of P10.68 million was released via cash advances but only P10.27 million had been accounted for.
Balutan said liquidation papers have been turned over to the agency's auditing department, and all unused funds have been returned to the national treasury.
PCSO officials were also reprimanded by lawmakers for violating the constitutional provision on the separation of church and state when it gave a stipend to the priest who celebrated the agency's thanksgiving mass last December.
Balutan earlier apologized for spending P16,000 on the thanksgiving mass, saying it was a "mistake."
Cam said Balutan initially planned to spend P75,000 on the thanksgiving mass alone but had to scale it down when she started questioning the expenses.
"The proposed budget for the thanksgiving mass was P75,000... Noong nagstart itong pumutok, binabaan nila," Cam said.
"I have nothing against anybody in the PCSO. It just so happens that I am very new sa board. Dumating ito sa aking kamay at hindi ko puwede ipagbalewala because this is people's money," she said.
DUTERTE SPEAKS UP
On Monday, President Rodrigo Duterte downplayed corruption allegations against Balutan.
“Iyung reklamo kay Balutan na gumastos ng milyon? Wala iyun, ang mahalaga naibibigay ang serbisyo sa nangangailangan,” Duterte said in a speech in Cebu City.
Duterte also urged Cam to mend ties with the PCSO general manager.