MANILA – Administration Sen. Francis Tolentino has called out the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) following its request for a multi-million increase in its foreign trips next year despite the limited overseas travel due to the 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 represented Solicitor General Jose Calida during Monday’s deliberation for the proposed P22.57-billlion budget of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and its attached agencies for 2021.
“Eh kahit ‘yong 2019 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,” he added.
Tolentino stressed that overseas travel is expected to remain limited until the early part of 2022 due to the pandemic.
Following the release of the 2019 annual audit report last month, the Commission on Audit has red-flagged OSG for supposedly not submitting documents to support its local and foreign travel expenses amounting to P1,169,121.61.
Tolentino also questioned the supposed lucrative allowances and other perks Calida has been receiving during the last two years from various government agencies it represented in various cases.
Calida is the second highest-paid government official with a total income of P16.9 million based on the recent figures released by state auditors.
Angeles, in defense of Calida, 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.
But Tolentino reminded the OSG official that the allowances cannot exceed 50 percent of the annual wage pursuant to the COA Memorandum Circular No. 85-25E, adding that Calida most likely “defied the COA memorandum circular.”
“Can you explain that, Atty. Angeles? Remember Mr. Angeles that COA is a constitutional office,” Tolentino reminded Angeles. (CMC)