Senators scold PLLO, but still approve its proposed budget

MANILA, Philippines – Senators questioned the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office for its lack of performance, citing the continued “disconnect” and “conflict” between Malacañang and Congress involving bills and laws.

In front of PLLO Secretary Adelino Sitoy, Senators Panfilo Lacson, Sherwin Gatchalian, and Joseph Victor Ejercito cited the agency’s “lack” of performance in coordinating with the House and the Senate.

Lacson, sponsor of the PLLO budget in the Senate, said it is the office’s role to prevent the bill from being vetoed, which creates “animosity” between the executive and legislative branches.

“I’m [for]  strengthening your mandate kasi para maiwasan, sometimes there's a disconnect between the legislative and executive. Magsusubmit ka ng bill... pagka na-veto, more or less  sabihin natin may animosity nagdedevelop kasi trabaho ng PLLO, para maiwasan presidential veto, to give input to us para we can adjust properly,” Lacson said during the budget hearing on Monday, September 18. (When you submit a bill and it gets vetoed [by the president], this develops animosity because  the PLLO did not do its job to avoid the president's veto.)

Ejercito cited the case of the bill on the postponement of the barangay elections originally set on October 23, 2017, which remains pending in the Senate.

May konting disconnect, tama si [Senator Lacson] (There a slight disconnect. Senator Lacson is correct.) Sometimes we do not know kung anong gusto talaga ng Malacañang like sa barangay elections, medyo nahuli na. (We are do not know what Malacañang prefers, like in the barangay elections, we got it a little late.)  We will just be starting to deliberate at the committee level,” Ejercito said. 

The House already approved the measure while the Senate has just started committee deliberations a month before the original date of the elections.

“It’s kinda short na and I think that’s your, sorry to say, the job of the PLLO to coordinate and tell Congress and Senate, for that matter, kung ano po yung gusto ng Malacañang, so we could have coordinated. Medyo may kulang you have to improve on that,” Ejercito said. (Your job is to update us on what Malacañang wants. You fell short , you have to improve.)

Gatchalian also cited the case of the law on free higher education, which faced strong criticism from members of the President’s economic managers. Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno earlier pushed for the measure's veto.

Gatchalian, one of the proponents, said it would not have reached that point had the PLLO done its job properly. After all, he said PLLO was created to “minimize friction” between the 2 branches of government.

Inaprubahan unanimously ng Senado, Kongreso. Until the last minute there was a threat of vetoing the measure. Dapat di na umabot sa ganung threat. Dapat dito pa lang ho naa-iron out na ung problema,” Gatchalian said. (It was approved unanimously. But it should not have been threatened with a veto. Kinks should been ironed-out in the legislature.)

“I think it's really time to make your experience fruitful dahil yan talaga trabaho ng PLLO. (That's really your job.) I've worked in Congress for 6 yrs, Senator JV has worked in Congress for 6 years. I've worked with other PLLO, dapat maging proactive po talaga kung hindi sayang po opisina ninyo,” he added. (We should be proactive, or else there we be no need for your agency.)

‘I’ve never seen you coordinate with us’

The senator also hit PLLO’s poor performance, saying he only met Sitoy in social gatherings. He said he has never met him nor his staff to discuss legislation.

“I'll be honest. I've only met you a few times in social gatherings. In my one year of existence in the Senate, wala pa po kami activity, wherein pinatawag mo kami, you liaised through, with us, coordinated with us, in the name of healthy collaboration between the 2 branches,” Gatchalian said. (I never had an activity with the PLLO, wherein I was called by PLLO.)

“One year na ho tayo magkakasama (We've been working together for one year) but I've never seen any of you extend your hand and coordinate with us.” 

Gatchalian also slammed PLLO for not promoting pending legislations outside those in the priority list, saying they just go with the flow. 

“Some of them are really vital. Some can help the executive but I've never seen any of you promote. Parang kung nandyan, nandyan. Kung wala, 'di gagalaw. Pero sayang kung nalaman ng Malacañang na may magagandang legislation,” (It's like, if it's there, so be it. If it's not there nothing happens. Too bad, if Malacañang knew about the good legislations.)  he said.

Sitoy, for his part, defended his office and said they reminded Duterte about the need for the bill on the barangay elections postponement.

As for the free college education, Sitoy said they were able to settle the issue with some members of the executive.

“Thank you so much for the reminder. As for the barangay elections, it was the PLLO that reminded the President of the urgency. On the education, we managed to fill up the gap between the objections and the proponent,” Sito said.

“Anyway we take note of your observation, senators. We will improve our function, our activities in regard to liaising between Congress and [the executive],” Sitoy said.

The Senate finance committee then approved the more than P84 million proposed 2018 budget of the agency. – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com

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