MANILA - Some senators on Tuesday questioned why the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) spent nearly all of its P1.73-billion budget this year on salaries and operational costs when its broadcast agencies had to be modernized.
The PCOO asked senators for additional funds in 2021 to upgrade its broadcast facilities across the country, but this year, the agency spent P1.65 billion for salaries and maintenance expenses, while only P79.22 million was allocated for the purchase of new broadcast equipment.
"Bakit hindi lumalago? Bakit hindi lumalawak? Kailan ba kayo lalakas talaga?" Sen. Richard Gordon asked during the PCOO's budget hearing in the Senate.
(Why are you not growing? Why are you not expanding? When will you really grow stronger?)
"Ang dami ninyong undersecretaries. Ang dami ninyong assistant secretaries. Ang dami ninyong general managers... I minimize expenses. I only get the people I really need," he said.
(You have a lot of undersecretaries. You have a lot of assistant secretaries. You have a lot of general managers... I minimize expenses. I only get the people I really need.)
According to its website, the PCOO has 5 undersecretaries, 7 assistant secretaries and 6 directors.
Its attached agencies - including the Philippine Broadcasting Service (PBS), Philippine Information Agency (PIA), Bureau of Communications Services (BCS), News and Information Bureau (NIB), Intercontinental Broadcasting Corporation (IBC-13), and the People's Television Network (PTV) - each have their respective directors and managers that add up to the bureaucracy.
Under its proposed P1.59-billion budget for 2021, the PCOO earmarked P79.23 million for the improvement of its physical assets, but the bulk of the fund is allocated for the construction of the "Government Communications Academy" and the "improvement" of the PIA's parking area.
The breakdown of the PCOO's proposed capital outlay for 2021 is as follows:
- P52.35 million - Government Communications Academy
- P13.15 million - ICT equipment for RTVM
- P5.24 million - ICT equipment for PBS
- P4.17 million - ICT equipment for BCS
- P2.55 million - PIA parking area improvement and perimeter fencing
- P1.77 million - ICT equipment and software for NIB
Sen. Imee Marcos urged the agency to shelve some of its programs - like a training academy for media students - and realign the funds to modernize its 13 to 16 stations nationwide.
"We are asking you to focus on engineering," Marcos said, noting that government stations need to strengthen its broadcasting capabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic, when some lessons are aired on TV and radio while physical classes remain suspended.
"Isantabi muna 'yung [pondo para sa] development communication, academy... kaso parang naka-focus kayo sa sahod," she said.
(Set aside funds for development communication, academy first... but it seems like you are focused on your salaries.)
Communications Secretary Martin Andanar admitted that state-run media companies need to modernize to keep up with their private sector counterparts.
Of the 34 state-run radio stations, 5 are "not running," data from the PCOO showed.
"Talagang napag-iwanan na po tayo ng panahon pagdating sa transmitters," Andanar said.
(We have really been left behind when it comes to transmitters.)
The PCOO chief did not say if the agency would find ways to reduce its personnel and operational expenses as lawmakers suggested.
"You really have to choose where you wanna fight. You cannot spend your money on so many things," Gordon said.
While the PCOO has been spending billions for the salaries of its personnel, IBC-13 workers in August mounted a protest demanding the government station to pay them proper wages.