Sandra Cam: PCSO Christmas party unacceptable, despite Duterte's stand

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 13) — Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) board member Sandra Cam reiterated that the agency's multi-million-peso Christmas party in 2017 was unacceptable.

During a House probe on the party on Tuesday, Cam turned emotional after she was asked to respond to President Rodrigo Duterte's statement clearing PCSO General Manager Alexander Balutan of any wrongdoing in connection with the party.

"Lalaban ako, your honors, hanggang kailan because I have the feeling of the poorest of the poor," she said. "Nakita ko diyan sa Philippine Children's Hospital, ang mga bata na kailangan bigyan ng tunay na serbisyo ng PCSO, pero anong ginawa? I fully disagree with GM Balutan regarding the lavish Christmas party."

[Translation: I will fight, your honors, for as long as I can because I have the feeling of the poorest of the poor. I saw at the Philippine Children's Hospital those children who need the PCSO's help, but what happened? I fully disagree with GM Balutan regarding the lavish Christmas party.]

 

On Monday, Duterte said he did not see anything wrong with the affair.

"'Yung sabihin niya na spent for millions sa... ako, wala 'yan sa akin," he said in a speech. "Basta ang kwarta nakaabot lang sa mga canned goods, mga sanina, kakainin rin 'yan eh.

[Translation: On reports that Balutan spent millions for... for me, that's nothing. As long as the money goes to canned goods and clothes, people will benefit from these.]

Balutan said on January 2017 that the P6.3 million spent for the party at the Edsa Shangri-la, a luxury five-star hotel, was for the agency's 1,580 employees and guests.

Read: PCSO defends party budget; says cost was even trimmed

For his part, House Committee on Good Government Chairman Johnny Pimentel said the PCSO's party may have violated some laws, particularly when the agency paid P16,000 to the priest who officiated the mass during the party.

"The chair agrees that this is a total waste of money," he said. "Una, you cannot use government money to be given to the Church. That's clearly stipulated in the Constitution. Nasa separation of powers po 'yun."

[Translation: The chair agrees that this is a total waste of money. First, you cannot use government money to be given to the Church. That's clearly stipulated in the Constitution. That's under separation of powers.]

Article 2, Section 6 of the 1987 Constitution states that "The separation of Church and State shall be inviolable."

Pimentel added that a Commission on Audit circular does not enumerate that cash advances amounting to millions of pesos can be used for a party.

"Regular cash advances can be granted to cashiers, disbursing officers or pay masters for the following purposes only: salaries and wages, commutable allowances, honorarium and other official payments, petty operational expenses," he said.

"There is never any provision that says you can make a cash advance lalo na ito, P10 million para gamitin sa Christmas party," Pimentel added.

[Translation: There is never any provision that says you can make a cash advance, especially for a P10 million Christmas party.]