Budget Watch

Drilon wants PCOO ‘propaganda hubs’ deferred to prioritize pandemic response

Pia Ranada

FACING SCRUTINY. Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar again faces questions from lawmakers about his agency's proposed budget.

PCOO

Senators question the hundreds of millions of pesos being proposed for the Visayas Media Hub and the Government Strategic Communications Academy

Senator Franklin Drilon questioned the urgency of projects being pursued by the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) – including a Visayas Media Hub and Government Strategic Communications Academy, given the more pressing problems of the pandemic.

Drilon, during a Senate hearing on the PCOO’s proposed 2022 budget, described the projects as “propaganda apparatus” and “academy for propaganda,” respectively.

“I think a rational assessment would tell you that these are not urgent projects, putting up a building to house an academy for propaganda and having P50 million again as MOOE (maintainance and other operating expenses) for propaganda,” said Drilon.

Senator Richard Gordon also expressed his disapproval of the academy.

“It is very obvious that we need funds because of the COVID response requirements. For every single peso of resources, we should prioritize COVID,” said Drilon.

He asked Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar if the funds intended for the academy could be deferred until 2023. Andanar responded by saying, “You have a good point, Mr. Chairman.”

But Andanar also clarified that funds for the building’s construction have already been approved – P79 million – and that the academy is set to begin construction in 2021.

It had already been delayed by a year as the PCOO initially aimed to start the project in 2020, but the pandemic derailed plans.

Meanwhile, the PCOO is asking for P200 million for the construction of the Visayas Media Hub in Mandaue City, Cebu, next year.

The government has already put up a Mindanao Media Hub in Davao City, which cost P340 million. An additional P408 million was spent for its TV broadcast equipment.

For 2022, the PCOO is asking for P1.91 billion, up from its P1.62-billion budget in 2021. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.