The Executive branch should waste no time in retrieving the P33.4-billion funds languishing at the Philippine International Trading Corporation (PITC), supposed to have been spent years ago for people’s needs like fire trucks, army boots, and first-aid kits, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan said Monday.
“We can cite the anti-graft law especially the provision on causing undue injury due to gross and inexcusable negligence if no action will be done soon. It is criminal that there is a sitting unutilized P33.4-billion fund when we are struggling to look for ways to pay for COVID-19 vaccines and provide aid for millions of typhoon victims. And we are yet to receive a convincing answer as to why it is just sitting there,” Pangilinan said.
“The Executive should immediately direct the PITC to return the money to the National Treasury for proper disposition,” he said, sharing Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez’s position in relation to the parked billions of pesos.
Pangilinan lauded Dominguez for writing Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Wendel Avisado to endorse to the President the issuance of a directive to return of the P33.4 billion parked funds as well as the P1.151 billion in interest funds to the treasury.
Last week, Pangilinan said the Executive branch can easily retrieve the PITC funds with the issuance of an Executive Order.
He has called on the President to do this so that the amount can be used to reinforce funds needed to buy COVID-19 vaccines, estimated to cost over P73 billion for 60 million Filipinos.
“Bakit pa mangungutang kung meron namang pwedeng makunan ng pondo. Ano ba ang prayoridad ng bansa? Para sa amin kitang-kita naman na ang dapat inuuna at binibigyang solusyon ay ang kagyat na usapin ng COVID-19 vaccines at ang mga nasalanta ng bagyo,” Pangilinan said.
The senator also supports Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, who exposed the parked billions of pesos in the government corporation.
“Still reeling from COVID-19, we recently faced the wrath of super typhoons which displaced thousands of families and destroyed their properties and livelihood. We cannot stand idly and stare at each other wondering where to get the money to assist the people when the funds are just in the drawers of a corporation,” Pangilinan said.
Funds for rehabilitation of the typhoon-ravaged provinces could reach billions and may even take years, he added.
Pangilinan said that in the 2021 budget, Congress will strictly exercise its oversight functions to see to it that agencies such as the PITC which were entrusted with the people’s money will manage and spend it wisely and promptly.
“We agree and support Secretary Dominguez in his call and urge the PITC and the DBM to respond promptly. We’ll undergo bicam on the 2021 budget soon, and we hope to be able to ensure that the national budget is responsive to the urgent needs of our country especially with the pandemic and the back-to-back-to-back typhoons,” Pangilinan said.