Drilon slams government’s ‘soft’ action on funds parked in PITC
MANILA, Philippines – Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon chided Malacañang on Wednesday for treating the Philippine International Trading Corp. (PITC) with “kid gloves” by not taking stronger steps to recover P33 billion in public funds “parked” in the accounts of the state-run procurement firm.
Malacañang’s approach, according to Drilon who earlier exposed the huge stash of unutilized taxpayer money in PITC as well as alleged violations of auditing and procurement rules, was “poor” and “lacks teeth.”
“The response is rather ‘soft.’ They are treating the issue with kid gloves. Maybe they have not realized yet the gravity of violations committed by the PITC,” he said in a statement.
Earlier, Malacañang ordered a review of the P33 billion worth of undelivered projects pending with PITC, a small agency attached to the Department of Trade and Industry.
Drilon called the move “a see-no-evil, hear-no-evil and speak-no-evil’ approach,” saying the government should heed the call of Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III for the immediate return of the money.
Dominguez wrote Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado on Nov. 25 urging him to recommend such an action to the President.
He also wrote Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, asking him to order the return to the national coffers of the more than P1 billion in interest earned by the funds parked in PITC’s accounts. Lopez responded by saying he would comply with Dominguez’s request.
Drilon said the P33 billion could be used to “provide money to the cash-strapped government in order to respond to [the] COVID-19 pandemic and the onslaught from three devastating typhoons that hit the country last month.”
He reiterated that the funds should be returned to the national treasury as recommended by the head of the economic team.
“The finance secretary and the Commission on Audit, in its report, had already concluded that the funds being held in trust by PITC should be returned to the source agencies,” Drilon said.
“Moreover, the interest income earned from the trust should be remitted to the national treasury pursuant to Presidential Decree No. 1445, or the Government Auditing Code of the Philippines,” he added.
According to Drilon, aside from violating auditing rules and procurement laws, the scheme was also “a clear violation of the President’s own Executive Order No. 91.
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