P6B unspent by Aquino is Duterte’s bonanza
President Rodrigo Duterte’s office has received P6.4 billion in discretionary funds that were not spent by his predecessor after the money was tied up in the bureaucratic maze in previous administrations, the Commission on Audit (COA) said on Wednesday.
The funds consisted of P1.41 billion donated by the late Benpres Corp. president Eugenio Lopez Jr. to the government as early as 1990 and P5 billion in proceeds from the Philippine Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) that had not been remitted to the Office of the President (OP) since June 2014.
The Lopez donation was not spent by the Aquino administration because there were no guidelines on how it could be used and Pagcor had stopped remitting the proceeds allocated for the President’s Social Fund (PSF), COA said in its annual audit report for 2016 released on Wednesday.
The Lopez funds were meant for socioeconomic development and disaster mitigation while the money from Pagcor was intended for financial assistance to law enforcers.
COA said the failure to issue guidelines “may have prevented” the OP from using the Lopez donation “during the times when the country was severely hit and devastated” by severe natural calamities.
COA urged the Duterte administration to craft a work and financial plan that could help “mitigate poverty and the sufferings of Filipino people affected by natural calamities.”
Lopez donated over 3.3 million Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) shares to the government as part of a compromise agreement to settle a dispute between the government and the Meralco Foundation Inc. over ownership of 27.78 million Meralco shares.
The shares were sold to the Government Service Insurance Corp. on Dec. 10, 2008 to monetize it. The deed of donation provided that the proceeds should be used for economic development projects in accordance with a national priority plan.
It was “recognized” as part of the funds for the OP on Dec. 30, 2010, but the lack of guidelines and policy regarding the use of the proceeds over the next six years had hindered the spending of the money for social development programs such as agrarian reform, assistance to disaster victims and rehabilitation of depressed areas, COA said.
COA reported that the OP was only able to collect the P5 billion from Pagcor on Dec. 29, 2016. The amount represented the share of Pagcor’s net income for 31 months from June 2014 to December 2016 that should have gone to the PSF, COA said.
The PSF is a lump-sum fund meant for financial, medical, burial, educational, livelihood and housing assistance and subsistence allowance for government employees and law enforcement officers. It used to be managed by the Presidential Management Staff until it was transferred to the OP on Oct. 8, 2014.
COA reported that Pagcor had stopped its PSF remittances in June 2014, prompting state auditors to issue memorandum to the state gaming corporation on June 15, 2016 to remit its unpaid obligations to the PSF.
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