Press Release
October 5, 2020

Tolentino slams OSG over lucrative allowances and other travel perks

MANILA - Senator Francis Tol Tolentino has grilled the Office of the Solicitor General over various issues, particularly its request for an increase in budget for foreign travels for next year amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

"Eh kasagsagan pa po next year ng COVID-19, saan naman po tayo magpo-foreign travel?" Tolentino asked Assistant Solicitor General Henry Angeles, who appeared during the budget hearing in behalf of Solicitor General Jose Calida, about the agency s request for additional P21.4 million budget for foreign trips.

The senator said overseas travel is expected to remain limited until the early part of 2022 due to the pandemic.

"Eh kahit yong 2020 e hindi niyo siguro nagamit yong foreign travel fund. Ngayon, malaki pa yong hinihingi niyo. Hindi ko alam kung saan kayo magtatravel. Hindi naman siguro sa Boracay," Tolentino added.

Calida s absence during Monday s budget hearing due to the advice of his physicians did not sit well with Tolentino, saying even the Supreme Court Chief Justice appeared before the Senate to defend the Judiciary s budget. The Department of Justice and its attached agencies are asking for P22.57-billion budget for 2021, this includes additional budget for foreign trips under the OSG which according to the Senator ballooned to 87.75 percent.

Tolentino also questioned the supposed lucrative allowances and other perks Calida has been receiving during the last two years from various government agencies the OSG is representing in various cases.

Based on 2019 annual report of the Commission on Audit (COA), Calida was the second highest-paid government official with a total income of P16.9 million.

While Angeles explained that the OSG s allowances from client agencies are allowed under Executive Order No. 292 series of 1987 or the Administrative Code of 1987, Tolentino stressed that the allowances cannot exceed 50 percent of the annual salary pursuant to the COA Memorandum Circular No. 85-25E.

"Apparently the Solicitor General has defied the COA memorandum circular. Can you explain that, Atty. Angeles? Remember Mr. Angeles that COA is a constitutional office," Tolentino told Angeles.

Angeles said they are currently appealing the said matter before the COA. Tolentino also slammed the OSG s supposed participation in preliminary investigations in criminal cases and other fact-finding inquiries, which is not part of their mandate since its role is to represent the government in cases before Court of Appeals (CA) or in the Supreme Court.

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