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Palace has P1.4 B in unused donations — COA

In a 2016 report released yesterday, COA said the funds have not been utilized because no guidelines or policies as to how they would be spent have been issued. AP/Bullit Marquez, File

MANILA, Philippines -  Malacañang has more than P1.412 billion in unused donations stashed in the Bureau of Treasury (BTr), which President Duterte can use for economic development projects and other needs such as the rehabilitation of war-torn Marawi City and rebuilding the earthquake-stricken province of Leyte, according to the Commission on Audit (COA).

In a 2016 report released yesterday, COA said the funds have not been utilized because no guidelines or policies as to how they would be spent have been issued.

State auditors said the money could be used for projects in economic development, according to a national priority plan such as agrarian reform, assistance to victims and areas affected by natural calamities and rehabilitation of depressed areas.

The COA report, quoting records, said the Manila Electric Co. Foundation Inc. and the Presidential Commission on Good Government entered into a compromise agreement on Aug. 24, 1990 for the settlement of their dispute regarding the ownership of MFI’s 27,776,557 common shares of stock of Meralco.

Subsequently, a deed of donation was entered into by and between Benpres Corp., represented by its president, Eugenio Lopez Jr., and the Office of the President (OP), represented by then executive secretary Catalino Macaraig Jr. 

The donor, Benpres, gave the donee, the OP, the 3,333,333 Meralco shares that could be used for economic development projects, according to a national priority plan.

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Records show that a trust agreement dated Dec. 6, 1990 was also entered into by and between MFI and the three-member board of trustees. Among the provisions of the deal was the manner and procedure for the divestment and disposition of the Meralco shares.

State auditors said an unnumbered memorandum dated Dec. 10, 2008 of then deputy executive secretary for legal affairs informed Macaraig that all shares, including the OP’s, were sold on Jan. 25, 2008 by MFI in coordination with the Department of Finance (DOF) and the Development Bank of the Philippines to the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) for P1,383,314,609.05. The amount was credited to the OP’s account in the BTr on the basis of the deed of donation and the trust agreement.

By virtue of the deed and the agreement, Malacañang recognized the amount on Dec. 30, 2010 in its book of accounts when BTr formally confirmed on Dec. 20, 2010 that the amount remained in its account under “Due to Other NGAs.”

As of Dec. 31, 2016, state auditors said the Cash- Treasury/Agency Deposit-Trust account balance has accumulated P1.921 billion, of which P1.412 billion was from the donation of Benpres.

“The non-issuance of pertinent guidelines for the utilization of the said donation may have prevented management to utilize the amount during the times when the country was severely hit and devastated by several typhoons, earthquakes and other natural calamities that caused severe damage to the property and lives of the Filipino people to mitigate the impact of these calamities,” the COA report noted.

State auditors advised the OP “to issue necessary guidelines and a work and financial plan for the utilization of the amount donated, taking into consideration the purpose of the donation in order to mitigate poverty and the sufferings of Filipino people affected by natural calamities.”

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