By Genalyn Kabiling
Malacañang has reminded Cabinet members to strictly comply with a recent presidential directive prohibiting travel junkets, and limiting the use of business class airfares.
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo made the appeal after the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) has reportedly started to look into cases of alleged excessive foreign travels of some government officials.
“That is a policy. Members of the Cabinet are expected to follow,” Panelo said at a news conference at the Palace Thursday.
He said the order issued by the President barring government officials and employees from going on junkets still stands.
PACC commissioner Greco Belgica recently said the commission has launched investigations on the alleged excessive foreign trips of three government officials.
Belgica, in a recent Palace news conference, said President Duterte has voiced his opposition to excessive travels abroad especially if public funds are used.
“There are cases of too many travels. The President does not like that. Who paid for the trip? What’s the purpose of the travel? Public funds might be used for personal travels. Using public funds for personal trips is not good,” he said in Filipino.
“Some have justified their travels. The probe on others is not yet done,” he added.
Belgica, for his part, said he seldom traveled abroad. “Personally, I don’t go out of the country unless very, very important. If I take one this year, I won’t repeat it unless it’s really important,” he said.
Last March, the President issued Executive Order No. 77 providing the rules and regulations for official local and foreign travels of government personnel.
“All forms of travel junkets shall be strictly prohibited,” the order read. “The conduct of strategic planning workshops or team building activities abroad shall not be allowed,” it added.
The official local or foreign travels must only cover those essential to the effective performance of an official or employee’s mandates or functions; required to meet the needs of the concerned department or office or “there is a substantial benefit derived by the State;” the presence of the government personnel is critical to the outcome of the meeting, conference or consultation; and the projected expenses are not excessive or involve minimum expenditure.
Travel costs must be minimized “as far as practicable,” according to EO 77. Government personnel must take economy class in foreign air travels. Business class airfares are only allowed for long-haul trips of department secretaries, undersecretaries, assistant secretaries, and those of equivalent ranks.
President Duterte has dismissed a number of government officials, including Maritime Industry Authority administrator Marcial Amaro III and former Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor chair Terry Ridon, for supposedly taking excessive foreign trips.