Saturday, March 04, 2006

Use of gov't funds at LP meet hit

Use of gov't funds at LP meet hit; DILG exec defends memo
First posted 04:22am (Mla time) Mar 04, 2006
By TJ Burgonio, Norman Bordadora

ALREADY accused of holding a rump session on the alleged instigation of Malacañang, a faction of the Liberal Party led by Manila Mayor Lito Atienza came under fire yesterday for using government funds in Thursday's LP convention and election at the posh Manila Hotel.

"The use of government funds for a partisan political activity, a celebration of the 60th anniversary of the LP, is against the law," Sen. Rodolfo Biazon, an LP senator, said in a briefing.

Biazon disclosed that Interior Undersecretary Marius Corpus exhorted LP governors and mayors to attend the LP conference on decentralization set for March 2 and authorized them to use their own funds for such purpose.

According to Biazon, Memorandum Circular No. 2006-10 was issued on Feb. 13 by Corpus, who said that the transportation fare, hotel bill and registration fees of the participants would be charged against local funds.

But Corpus yesterday told the Inquirer that the memorandum circular was not irregular and partisan.

"So what? There's nothing wrong with that," Corpus said in a telephone interview.

Corpus said the memorandum that he signed was merely ministerial.

"It was just (granting a request) to attend the conference on official time. We also allowed them to use public funds except for the 20 percent development fund or the poverty alleviation fund," Corpus said.

"We also told them that their expenses should be charged to their 2006 local fund," he added.

The LP conference which turned into a convention and an election eventually ousted Senate President Franklin Drilon as LP president. Atienza was voted party president while Presidential Chief of Staff Michael Defensor was named party chair.

Drilon's faction said it was studying the option of expelling party members who attended the "rump session." "All options are being discussed," Drilon said.

"We have to say that these are acts inimical to the party interests and ultimately will have to be subjected to disciplinary action," former DepEd Secretary Florencio Abad said in an interview Thursday night.

But Drilon did not close the doors to any future dialogue with Atienza's "breakaway group."

"I've always been open to a dialogue. Two of those who attended the convention have been trying to open a dialogue between us, but it was Mayor Atienza who was resisting it," he said.

Drilon had branded Thursday's proceedings as "brazenly illegal," pointing out that Atienza, as party chair, had no authority to convene the National Executive Council and that only 32 out of the 103 Neco members attended the convention.

With reports from Tina G. Santos and Christine O. Avendano

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