Monday, August 17, 2009

House Speaker denies claims that President used up P800M fund for foreign trips

MANILA, Philippines - House Speaker Prospero Nograles said Representative Teofisto Guingona III may have exaggerated when he claimed there was a report by the Commission on Audit submitted to his office on which he based his allegation that President Gloria Arroyo used up the government’s P800-million contingency fund for her foreign trips.

Nograles said that while he holds great respect for Guingona, he may have exaggerated his claim on an alleged COA report submitted to his office and may have twisted some information when he and other select members of the House of Representatives were briefed by COA.

“There was never any such report. I have not received any such report and I think the same is true with other members of the House. We have not received any official communication from the COA to that effect - not even in the COA briefing that was supposed to be given only for select House leaders, where Representative Guingona sat,” Nograles said.

“Even the COA presentors were caught unaware about such a supposed COA report. He may have blown out of proportion his extrapolations based on limited information,” he added.

Nograles said the presentation of Assistant Commissioner Carmela Perez did not specify anything about the President's travels although it included the issue on allotments that exceeded appropriations for some Special Purpose Funds (SPF) of which Contingent Fund was one of the items.

In terms of the total travel expenses supposedly amounting to P2.7 billion as claimed by Guingona, Nograles said the research done by his staff may have included all agencies under the Office of the President.

“This is very different from attributing all of the travel expenses to the President herself,” Nograles said.

“Over 3 dozen agencies report to the Office of the President, which require also foreign travels in the course of their work. Their expenses may have been inadvertently attributed by the research staff of Rep. Guingona to the person of the President,” he added.

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