PRA official's move to speed up budget deliberations irks senators

Lyza Aquino, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 21 2023 12:44 PM | Updated as of Nov 21 2023 02:31 PM

Watch more on iWantTFC

A Philippine Retirement Authority official is in hot water for allegedly texting Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri and other senators to expedite the budget hearing for the Department of Tourism.

Senator Jinggoy Estrada was the first to call the attention of newly appointed PRA General Manager Cynthia Carrion for sending text messages to several senators, urging them to expedite the budget hearing. 

The Philippine Retirement Authority is under the Department of Tourism.

"May I call the attention of Miss Cynthia Carrion to say that we have been here working since 9 am in the morning, waiting for all the budgets of the departments to be deliberated upon," said Estrada during the start of the budget hearing of the said department early Tuesday. 

"We are doing our job and no one has the right to tell us to stop talking here. It is our duty, and our job to perform our work here in the Senate. You do not have the right to tell us what to do here," he added.

"Kami nga kahit matagal magtanong si Senator Risa, we never dared to ask her to stop asking questions. Who are you? Who are you to tell us to stop asking questions?"

Sen. Joel Villanueva said he took offense that a fellow government official would question the work of the Senate, saying that they had been working on the budget for the past 7 days. 

Senator Risa Hontiveros said the PRA official apologized after sending a text message asking her to limit the number of questions she asks during interpellations. 

"I heard the apology of the person concerned but I think moving forward, words must be followed by actions na pagwasto hindi lang sa individuals sa atin kundi sa buong institution natin. I hope things can be set right in the coming days," she said. 

Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia- Frasco admitted she received the same request from Carrion.

"We respect your mandate, we respect your discretion, and we fully appreciate your exercise of duty even now to the wee hours of the morning. That being said, I share in your shock and dismay at the highly inappropriate, unacceptable and out of line actions of the head of the Philippine Retirement Authority, the recently appointed GM Cynthia Carrion who at the beginning of this day, also actually approached me and demanded that we be placed first as far as the schedule of the deliberations of the budget, to which I immediately replied to her to say that we cannot do that, because the Senate is an independent body and we must fully respect their schedule, their discretion, their time," she said.

The tourism secretary assured the chamber that they will conduct an investigation on the matter.

"That being said, Mr. Senate President, she earlier apologized personally to the senators. Nevertheless, as a tacit manifestation of our commitment to set things right, I have already ordered my Chief of staff to immediately conduct an investigation to her actuations and subsequent findings of the same to meet out the appropriate penalty that is appropriate to the impropriety of her actions to close," she added.

Senate President Miguel Zubiri said he has accepted Carrion's apology.

"I accept her apology which she gave earlier. We just wanted to put it on record so that the other agencies would know and all the other members of this government, that we are doing this not to spite any government agency. This is again as she mentioned a constitutionally mandated duty for us to see the budget of each and every one of the agency," he said.

The P3.3 billion budget of DOT for next year was eventually approved by the Senate at the end of the deliberation.