Senators on the early morning of Tuesday, November 21 called out the head of the Philippine Retirement Authority (PRA) for demanding that the Senate prioritize her agency’s proposed budget for next year. 


It was Sen. Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada who took the floor during the Senate plenary deliberations on the proposed budget of the Department of Tourism (DOT) and disclosed how PRA General Manager Cynthia Lagdameo Carrion dared to “incessantly” text several senators—particularly, Senate President Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri, Deputy Minority Leader Risa Hontiveros, Sen. Pia Cayetano—to tell them to stop asking questions “because according to that department head, she has been here since 1 o’ clock waiting for the budget of their agency to be deliberated upon.”


“May I call the attention of Ms. Cynthia Carrion that we’ve been here working at 9 am (November 20), waiting for all the budget of the departments to be deliberated upon. We are doing our job and no one has the right to tell us to stop talking here,” Estrada said.


“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 said. 


“Imagine telling the Senate president, we’ve been here at 1 o’clock waiting for the (DOT) budget to be heard. We’ve been workign here since last week, deliberating on all the budgets of the departments here and telling the deputy minority leader to stop asking questions? Kami nga, kahit matagal magtanong si Sen. Risa (Even if Sen. Risa asks long questions), we never dared to ask her to stop asking questions. Who are you? Who are you to tell us to stop asking questions?” Estrada pointed out.


He warned the Senate may defer hearing their budget or even slash their proposed funding for next year due to her actions.


Compared to her, the senator also pointed out DOT Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco “is not complaining” despite her being a neophyte secretary. 


“She (Frasco) never complained. Who are you to complain? Kahit siguro alas tres na ma-hear ang budget ng DOT, hindi magrereklamo ‘yan (Even if we hear the DOT’s budget at 3 a.m. she won’t be complaining),” Estrada noted.


Zubiri, for his part, also manifested his agreement with Estrada reiterating that it is the Senate’s constitutional mandate to deliberate and hear all the budgets of government agencies. 


Not even fellow members of the Senate do not ask their colleagues to stop interpellating on the budget, the Senate leader stressed.


“We have no right to stop any member of the Senate to ask questions, propose amendments, and as Senate president, I will never do that to any of you. So it's very surprising,” Zubiri said.


“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 DENR because you want the DOT to be next in line, that is not proper, that is inappropriate,” he added.


“And I think the sad part about it is she doesn't know you. So it’s like an angry text message from an anonymous person which is again as I mentioned is inappropriate. It’s quite insulting,” he emphasized.


Though he didn’t receive any text from the PHA official, Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva said he too finds Carrion’s actions as unacceptable. 


“I take offense being a member of this institution…I haven’t seen my kids and wife for days now, for more than a week now. Sen. Jinggoy’s wife is celebrating her birthday today, he couldn’t even go home and someone, a public official would dare to question our duties and responsibilities our work here in the Senate. It’s unacceptable,” Villanueva said.


Frasco, who was present during the marathon hearings on the budget, apologized for Carrion’s behavior, saying she too, felt “shocked and dismayed” at the “out of line actions of the PHA chief” who was just recently appointed as the agency’s general manager.


Hontiveros, for her part, suggested that Carrion issue a formal apology for her actions as she also takes offense when she sent such text messages to the Senate leader and other senators, including her.


“I heard the apology of the person concerned but I think moving forward, words must be followed by action. Pagwasto sa ginawa niya, hindi lang sa ilang indibidwal natin, pero sa buong institusyon natin (Correcting her mistakes, not only to individual senators, but to the whole institution),” Hontiveros said.


Zubiri also said he accepted the apology that she then gave after the incident, but stressed that the Senate “is doing this not to spite any government agency” but doing its constitutionally mandated duty to make sure that public funds “are spent effectively and efficiently for the people.”



Source: Manila Bulletin (