GMANews.TV - Friday, August 14
President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's expenses for her foreign trips since 2003 went beyond the allotted budget by around P1.6 billion, an opposition lawmaker said Friday.
Bukidnon Rep. Teofisto Guingona III said he obtained records from the Commission on Audit showing President Arroyo and her delegation had spent some P2.7 billion from 2003 to 2007, when the budget for the period was supposed to have been only P1.1 billion.
"Iyong ibang bagay na 'pag labag sa batas puwede mong i-explain pero ito numero lang. Ang question lang sumobra ka ba sa naka-budget pag sumobra lagot ka sa batas. Eh sumobra eh," Guingona said in a radio interview.
He said the COA report was dated August 12 this year.
The lawmaker, son and namesake of former Vice President Teofisto Guingona Jr., added that in 2008 alone, Mrs. Arroyo's entourage had spent P722 million for their trips abroad when the budget for them was only P244 million.
According to Guingona, the Palace was able to compensate for the remaining expenses beyond the budget by getting money from the national contingency fund, which is supposedly used in cases of national emergencies.
He said that under the law, the Office of the President can use the contingency fund when the President's travel expenses go overboard.
Guingona also cited the COA report as showing that Mrs. Arroyo had also spent P120 million beyond the P800 million contingency fund for 2008.
GMANews.TV called up Guingona several times to elaborate on his claims but the calls went unanswered.
A staff of Press Secretary Cerge Remonde, meanwhile, told GMANews.TV over the phone that Remonde was still in a Palace meeting as of posting time.
The Arroyo administration is being criticized over the reported $20,000-dinner of the President's party at Le Cirque in New York last week. Palace officials have since pointed to Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez as the one who footed the bill. [See: Arroyo dined lavishly in US before attending Cory's wake]
Soon after the controversy broke out, the Washington Post reported that the President and her entourage had dined at Bobby Van's Steakhouse in Washington DC hours after she met with US President Barack Obama. [See: Before NY, Arroyo entourage dined in Washington for $15K]
Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez, another administration stalwart, said he footed the $15,000 bill at the steakouse held supposedly in celebration of the President and her husband Jose Miguel "Mike" Arroyo's 41st wedding anniversary. - GMANews.TV