Another year, another budget hearing — and the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) is requesting almost P2 billion of it, in fact.
“Your support will help us continue to communicate hope to our people that better days are coming for the Philippines,” Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar told the members of the Senate committee on finance on Thursday, September 16. During the hearing, Andanar faced questions from senators on a proposed budget of P1.91 billion for 2022 — P1.62 billion more than last year’s funds.
Lawmakers probed why the PCOO would need a hefty budget allocation, considering a.) we’re in the middle of a pandemic; b.) their projects are not urgent; and c.) did we mention that we’re in the middle of a pandemic?
Some of the eyebrow-raising projects included a government communications academy and a “Visayas media hub”, which would cost P265 million, according to the PCOO – the latter costing P200 million alone.
The communications office also requested a budget of P177 million for personnel services, with P76 million intended for contractual employees – and the Senate is having none of it.
In fact, senators also raised suspicions that the PCOO was running and maintaining troll farms.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon asked, “What do you need an academy for? Is this where you train trolls?”
Drilon added, “It is very obvious that we need funds because of the COVID response requirements. For every single peso of resources, we should prioritize COVID.”
Communications secretary Martin Andanar eventually conceded that the proposed projects were not urgent, after Drilon asked whether the projects could be deferred until 2023, saying, “You have a good point, Mr. Chairman.”