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After over a week of marathon deliberations, the Senate finally closed the period of debates for the proposed 2024 national budget at 4:42 am on Tuesday, November 21.
It seemed just like any other budget deliberation that stretched into the following day. That is, until senators divulged that Philippine Retirement Authority (PRA) chief Cynthia Carrion “lectured” and even “insulted” some of them through a barrage of text messages in her bid to make them prioritize the Department of Tourism (DOT) budget.
The PRA is an attached agency of the DOT.
Senator Jinggoy Estrada called out the PRA general manager who, he said, texted senators nonstop that DOT officials had been in the Senate since 1 pm on Monday, November 20, for their agency’s budget deliberations, only to be heard early Tuesday morning.
“It has come to my attention and the attention of our colleagues here in this august chamber that a certain head of an agency of the DOT has incessantly texted several of our colleagues including the SP, including the deputy minority leader, and I guess it’s Sen Pia Cayetano, telling us or lecturing us to stop asking questions,” Estrada said in a statement.
“We are doing our job and no one has the right to tell us to stop talking here. It is our duty and our job to perform our work here in the senate and you don’t have the right to tell us to do what to do here,” he added.
Senate President Migz Zubiri said that he was surprised that Carrion, his friend, complained about the Senate process of deliberations.
“If it was just me, I will just let go of it. But when I heard that you were texting other members of the Senate, particularly more insulting text messages to Senator Risa Hontiveros, to stop asking the budget of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) because you know, you want the DOT to be next in line, that is not proper; that is inappropriate,” Zubiri said.
“My colleagues do not deserve that. Never mind me, you can insult me. You can get mad at me, but my colleagues do not deserve that treatment from members of the government who are actually trying to sponsor their budgets,” Zubiri added.
The Office of Senator Risa Hontiveros refused to release the content of Carrion’s message to the senator, when reporters asked for it.
“I am a proud member of the minority, and I take offense if our modest Senate President will not, as the Senate President of our institution being texted such messages. Salamat kaayu to Secretary Cristina Frasco for her apology and the apology as well of another official of the DOT who met us in front near the lounge,” Hontiveros said.
Carrion’s action prompted Frasco to apologize to the senators and said that she already ordered an investigation on the matter. The tourism chief ordered Carrion to issue a public apology to the senators she had texted.
Frasco was allowed to speak at the plenary. It was an accommodation to Frasco as under Senate rules, only senators who sponsor an agency’s budget is given the floor.
Frasco said that early Monday, Carrion already demanded that DOT should be prioritized in the budget deliberations. She was surprised that Carrion texted the senators despite her warnings that they cannot do it since the Senate has its own rules and procedures.
“Imagine my shock and complete and utter disappointment when I learned that she, in defiance of what I have been very clear to her about, proceeded to send these inappropriate text messages,” Frasco said.
Frasco is not alone in being shocked by Carrion’s apparent brazenness. Indeed, how could she even think that she could tell senators what to do? – Rappler.com