Tolentino: PSA is not above the law

Senator Francis "Tol" Tolentino on Thursday, November 17, chided the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) over its supposed refusal to comply with a subpoena from the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee in relation to its investigation on the controversial procurement of overpriced and outdated laptops for public school teachers.

During the Senate's plenary debates on the PSA's proposed 2023 P9.73 billion budget, the Blue Ribbon committee chairman said a subpoena duces tecum signed by Senate President Juan Miguel "Migz" F. Zubiri was sent to the PSA for a copy of the death certificate of a notary public who legalized the agreement between the Department of Education (DepEd) and the Procurement Service-Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) for the laptop purchase.

The PSA, however, rejected the Senate panel's request and invoked data privacy based on an internal circular.

Tolentino said the rejection was a defiance of the Senate's constitutionally-recognized mandate to conduct inquiries in aid of legislation.

"If that is not indirect contempt, I don't know what to call it," Tolentino said in mixed English and Filipino.

"I ask the PSA not to disrespect us like this...Respect the law, respect the Constitution, respect the Philippine Senate," he told PSA officials.

Senator Juan Edgardo ‘’Sonny’’ M. Angara, chairman of the Senate committee on finance, defended the PSA’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year.

He consulted with PSA chief Claire Dennis Mapa during the debate.

This was the second time Angara defended PSA budget after the Senate deferred its submission last Wednesday, pending the interpellation of Tolentino.

After Tolentino’s interpellation today, the PSA budget was deemed submitted for the Senate’s consideration.