MANILA - Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Tuesday flagged some P33.4 billion "parked" in the coffers of the Philippine International Trading Corporation (PITC), saying the fund should be reverted to the national treasury for use in the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines.
The billions of pesos from various government agencies have been lodged in the PITC from 2009 to 2019 for various projects, with the firm taking on procurement tasks that stray from its original mandate, Drilon said in a privilege speech.
"The government is having difficulty in raising funds due to the drop in revenues... 'Wag na po tayong umutang [para sa vaccine]. Isoli na lang ng PITC ang P33.4 billion," he said.
(Let's not borrow money. The PITC should just return the P33.4 billion.)
Drilon noted that PITC's failure to return to the National Treasury unused funds by the end of the year is also a violation of the law.
Government agencies may have been placing some of their funds to the PITC "to make it appear that funds are obligated when truth and in fact it is sleeping," the Senate Minority Leader said.
"Agencies are using PITC to skirt the end of the year validity of appropriations," he said.
"PITC is used to hide inefficiencies in the national government," he said.
Drilon urged the Senate to investigate the scheme within the PITC, saying it is in violation of the state trading firm's original mandate.
The PITC, a government-owned and controlled corporation, was established via a presidential decree in 1973 to trade with other economies and has since been "at the forefront of leading trade activities by implementing facilitative trade-related services and responsive business solutions," according to its website.
It is an attached agency of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and is tasked to help businesses and agencies benefit from international trade and "ensure the most efficient and cost-effective procurement services" and "contribute to the price/supply stabilization of goods and services."
"We must review the charter of the PITC," Drilon said, noting that the Governance Commission for GOCCs gave the PITC a "failing" mark of 76 percent.
"I was surprised with the coverage or kind of procurement that PITC is undertaking for government agencies, from face towels to T-shirts to guns to X-ray machines... to infrastructure projects," he said.
"PITC was created by law as a trading company. How is it now engaged in the creation of fire stations, multi-purpose halls and light houses?" he said.
Sen. Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III agreed with Drilon that the Senate must look into PITC's operations.
"That is a big loophole in our budgeting concepts," he said.
The Senate should also study why the state's lone trading firm seems to have abandoned its mission of helping trade companies, and instead focused on procuring items for government agencies.
"Parang na-focus na 'yung PITC sa (The PITC seems to have focused on) government procurement when in fact there are already laws and systems in place for procurement," he said.
The PITC's 1 to 5 percent commission should also be investigated, Sen. Panfilo Lacson said in a separate interview.
"Ang aming dapag pag-aralan dito, para saan 'yung 1-5 percent kasi ang range masyadong malawak," Lacson said in an interview on ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo.
(We have to study what the 1-5 percent commission is for because the range is too wide.)
"'Yung 1 percent siguro parang transaction fee... pero nagulat nga kami na ang DICT parang 4 percent o sa DND 'yung china-charge sa kanila na commission," he said.
(The 1 percent may be for the transaction fee... but we were surprised that the DICT or the DND was being charged a 4-percent commission.)
Drilon's privilege speech was referred to the Senate Committee on Government Corporations and Public Enterprises.