Drilon questions AFP’s P9.6B fund ‘sleeping in coffers’ of PITC
MANILA, Philippines — Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Friday questioned the P9.6 billion fund of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) “sleeping in the coffers” of the Philippine International Trading Corp (PITC).
During Senate debates on the proposed 2021 national budget, Drilon asked Senator Panfilo Lacson, who was defending next year’s budget of the Department of National Defense (DND), about how much fund from contracts or arrangements of the AFP is pending in the PITC.
“We understand it and we can be corrected on this. The AFP would transfer funds to PITC for the PITC to do the procurement,” Drilon noted.
“Don’t be horrified with the figures. The outstanding balance as of 30 June 2020 with PITC is a total of P9.623 billion,” Lacson then responded. He said the amount is broken down as follows: Philippine Army at P6.3 billion; Philippine Air Force at P736 million; Philippine Navy at P1.99 billion, and; AFP General Headquarters at P582 million.
Drilon subsequently asked Lacson if, under this system, the financial records of AFP would show that the funds have been obligated because the amount has been transferred to PITC for the purchase of certain services or goods.
Lacson answered in the affirmative.
“That is correct. So the obligation rate of the agency concerned would be quite misleading because ang treatment dyan (the treatment there) is obligated na when in fact the funds are lying idle with the PITC,” he said.
Upon inquiry from Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, Lacson also said that the outstanding balance of the AFP in the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) is at P257 million.
Meanwhile, Senator Imee Marcos also mentioned that the Department of Information and Communications and Technology has P1.5 billion “parked” with the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA).
“Is this becoming a common practice within the government that they are just shifting funds from one agency to another in order that these amounts are not reverted to treasury?” Marcos asked.
“It’s a question we need to inquire about. It’s not only PITC, there is PS-DBM and apparently also BCDA. I think we need to get to the bottom of this,” she also said.
Drilon added that as per the report of the Commission on Audit (COA), the Government Procurement Group also has a balance of funds that were transferred from other agencies to PITC to act as a purchasing agent.
“The AFP has another P9.6 billion. Honestly, I do not know any more the extent of the funds sleeping in the coffers of PITC and I think this requires close scrutiny,” he said.
“Maybe, Sen. Lacson, you might be barking at a smaller dog in so far as your campaign on pork-barrel, this one is also not small,” he told his fellow lawmaker.
“If we intend to file a resolution here asking for an investigation, siguro investigation by probably the committee on finance on exactly where we are in so far as this is concerned,” Drilon concluded.
In a statement he issued after the plenary debate, Drilon expressed alarm over PITC’s “penchant not to return public money.”
He cited the COA report indicating that the P9.176 billion refers to the balances of fund transfers from various agencies from 2009 to 2019 that remained unutilized as of December 2019.
He also said that the procuring agency owed the Philippine National Police around P1.347 billion in undelivered equipment.
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