Palace exec no-show at Senate budget hearing; spat with Enrile seen
MANILA, Philippines—The glaring absence of a Cabinet secretary in the hearing of his department’s 2013 budget raised suspicion that he was avoiding Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile with whom he has a longstanding feud in Cagayan province.
Two undersecretaries took the place of Secretary Manuel Mamba, chief of the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office (PLLO), who was supposed to be present to defend its proposed P35.4 million budget for next year.
Cabinet heads are tacitly required to personally defend their departments’ budgets especially in case a senator has questions about how funds would be spent.
An apparently clueless Senator Loren Legarda complained that she wanted Mamba to explain why the bill creating the P1 billion People’s Survival Fund for calamity victims has remained unsigned by President Aquino.
Legarda insists the bill should be signed into law to indicate Malacañang’s sincerity and clear intent to help victims of the southwest monsoon that ravaged Metro Manila and outlying provinces last week.
“There should be a little ceremony at least,” she suggested.
Senate finance chairman Franklin Drilon told Legarda in jest that Enrile would later explain to her “in executive session” why Mamba was absent.
“That closed-door meeting would only be between the two of you. Leave me out of it,” Drilon said with a grin.
Mamba’s no-show was made more noticeable by the presence of Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. and Julia Abad, chief of the Presidential Management Staff, who both came to the Senate to defend their offices’ 2013 budgets.
Observers also noted Enrile’s presence in the hearing. The Senate President usually does not attend budget hearings.
Senate insiders believe Mamba, an erstwhile Enrile protégé, wanted to avoid a confrontation with the Senate President with whom he has an ongoing quarrel in Cagayan province.
In the latest episode of this provincial drama, Mamba allegedly resented Enrile’s support for another candidate for a local position in Cagayan in 2010.
Enrile’s bet won, leaving Mamba hurting and in near-obscurity until he was appointed chief of PLLO after the one-year ban on the appointment of losing candidates.
Mamba’s rant against Enrile in 2010 can be viewed on YouTube.
Enrile told Legarda during the hearing that under the law, a pending bill would be considered signed into law following a lapse of 30 days after it was approved.
“But Malacañang has to show it gives importance to the funding to vulnerable communities,” the inconsolable senator replied.
“I’m just wondering, I have never seen this secretary. Who is the secretary of PLLO? I want to give him my piece of mind,” Legarda said.
Earlier, Ochoa submitted a P2.7-billion spending plan for the Office of the President for 2013.
Abad, on the other hand, has asked for P13 million for PMS’ rationalization plan and the office’s temporary relocation while its current venue is retrofitted.
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