Press Release
February 12, 2006

Probing questions about Arroyo administration corruption
directly related to budget, says Drilon

Senate President and Liberal Party head Franklin Drilon today welcomed the decision of Malacañang to allow Cabinet members to attend Senate budget hearings anew, noting that President Arroyo must have realized that Executive Order 464 has absolutely no legal, political and constitutional basis at all.

In a statement, Drilon said he hoped Malacañang would eventually withdraw EO 464 altogether to avoid a direct confrontation with Congress over the latters powers to scrutinize the national budget and its oversight functions to investigate abuses and excesses of the executive department.

I am hopeful that Malacañang would withdraw EO 464 because it is patently illegal and unconstitutional and goes against the very principles of public transparency and accountability as enshrined in our Constitution, Drilon said.

Those who advised her into signing this executive order did the President, our democratic system and the entire Filipino nation a great disservice, he added.

On Saturday, Malacañang said President Macapagal-Arroyo agreed to allow Cabinet and other government officials to appear at Monday's Senate hearings on the budget.

Malacañang made the decision after a bloc of 17 senators led by Drilon, concerned about an open confrontation between the Palace and the Senate, asked the Supreme Court to stop President Arroyo from enforcing EO 464 barring government officials from appearing at Senate or House hearings without her clearance.

In his statement, Drilon debunked the claim of Presidential Chief of Staff Michael Defensor that the senators, both from the majority and minority bloc, were more interested in raising political questions rather than monetary matters.

The claim that the Senate was politicizing the budget hearings with the intention of destabilizing the government is another outright lie consistently being peddled by this paranoid administration, Drilon said.

The embarrassing questions being asked about the P728-million fertilizer fund scam, the highly-questionable use of the P35 billion Marcos wealth, the overpriced $500-million Northrail project and the abuses of the PCGG commissioners are directly related to the national budget, Drilon said.

These are basically questions about how public funds were being utilized by the executive department, Drilon pointed out.

The Senate President noted that most of the questions being asked during the hearings were triggered by Commission on Audit (COA) reports indicating questionable, illegal and irregular utilization of public funds by the Arroyo officials during the past years.

If the Senate budget hearings has become part of destabilization efforts against this government, then I suggest that President Arroyo should start asking why COA wants to destabilize her administration, Drilon said.

He explained that it was the COA which reported that the liquid fertilizer used in the Ginintuan Masaganang Ani (GMA) program was overpriced by at least 127 million.

Drilon also noted that documents from COA and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) indicated that at least P100 million of the Marcos Swiss bank were used to financed the fertilizer program that was managed by former agriculture undersecretary Jocelyn Bolante, a close associate of First Gentleman Mike Arroyo.

It was Secretary Romulo Neri who, during the budget hearings, revealed that the recovered Marcos deposits were all spent by the administration in a period of just two years. If that is an act of destabilization, then Secretary Neri is the one destabilizing this government, Drilon said.

Drilon revealed he disagreed with the observation that EO 464 was issued by Malacañang to humiliate him.

The Arroyo administration will not gain anything by humiliating the Senate President. Drilon explained. Its officials are simply under the illusion that they can ensure her political survival if she can make all these nagging questions about widespread corruption in government disappear.

Unfortunately, our Constitution mandates public transparency and accountability as well as a system of checks and balances in government. The Senate has a job to do and it has no intention of failing the Filipino people, Drilon said.

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