Budget Watch

Senate censures PCOO official for drinking alcohol during budget debates

Mara Cepeda
Senate censures PCOO official for drinking alcohol during budget debates
Dominique Tajon, general manager of an agency under PCOO, drinks an alcoholic beverage while attending the session virtually. 'Inappropriate pictures of individuals not clothed properly' were also seen through his camera.

Senators censured an official of the Presidential Communications Operations Office who was caught drinking alcohol while virtually attending the late-night PCOO budget debates on Monday, November 22. 

The Senate moved to censure Dominique Tajon, general manager of the PCOO-attached APO Printing Office, after Sergeant-at-Arms Rene Samonte reported seeing Tajon consuming an alcoholic beverage through the teleconferencing app they were using. 

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, who was presiding over the plenary debates, even said he saw “inappropriate pictures of individuals not clothed properly” through Tajon’s camera.

Censuring Tajon was the senators’ formal statement of disapproval against the official, though there would be no legal consequences for him.

Senators also agreed to defer their plenary deliberations on the PCOO’s proposed P1.64-billion budget in 2022 to Tuesday night, November 23, instead.

‘Total disrespect for the Senate’

Senate Minority Leader Frank Drilon was shocked at Tajon’s actions, saying it was the first time in his 24 years serving in the chamber to encounter a government official having the audacity to drink alcohol during a Senate session.

It was Drilon who made the motion to censure Tajon.

“This is a total disrespect for the Senate. We are in session. They are inside the session hall virtually and they are taking alcoholic drink during the session of the Senate? This is reprehensible, Mr. Chairman,” said the veteran lawmaker.

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri also could not hide his frustration, further calling out all the other PCOO officials for refusing to be physically present at the chamber for the agency’s budget deliberations.

Zubiri ordered the officials to attend the budget debates in-person on Tuesday. If not, he threatened to give the PCOO zero budget in 2022.

“So I move, Mr. Chairman, that the budget of the PCOO, with permission from the sponsor, be deferred until tomorrow. And we will require all these agencies to be present, like we are, every day, at two in the morning. They come back at 10 in the morning…. Failure to attend the agency head, we’ll just zero their budget,” said Zubiri. 

The Senate Majority Leader’s motion was approved with no objections.  – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.