On the recent scandal over Senate President Johnny Enrile’s distribution of P30 million savings in the maintenance and other operating expenses fund (MOOE) to the senators last December, we call on all senators to return the so-called “gifts” or “bonus” right away. Such appalling act of dispensing people’s money for personal discretions by the senators disgraces and dishonors whatever virtue the people sees in this Senate.
While we welcome Senator Miriam Santiago’s move to immediately return the money, we call on each senator not to give back the money to Senate President Enrile. The fund should be returned to the government coffers as savings in the Senate fund last year. As savings, we welcome the government’s allocation of the fund to urgent social welfare projects, or specifically as additional fund to assist the victims of typhoon Pablo in Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental.
We also condemn Senator Enrile’s attempt to use the money to factionalize the Senate by giving P1.6 million each to the 18 senators whom he is allied with, and P250,000 each to four senators he obviously hates. This type of patronage politics should be expunged from the Senate and any institutions of government.
We also deplore the Commission on Audit’s pathetic response to Enrile’s misuse of government fund. The COA has stated that Enrile’s action is aboveboard and is allowed under the General Appropriations Act. Firstly, the fund is intended for the maintenance and other operating expenses of the members of Senate. Using it for other purposes – in this case, Christmas bonus – is the height of brazenness (kapalmuks or kapal-mukha in the dialect). Secondly, while the disbursement of “savings” of Senate funds by the Senate President can be considered legal, it is downright unethical and callous given the state of poverty and deprivation experienced by millions of Filipinos today.
We also demand that the Senate fund and each senator’s funds be subject to scrutiny and audit by the government. We should stop the practice of exempting the Senate from auditing of funds and from submitting receipts or liquidation of their budgets – a practice which has been started during the time of Senate President Marcelo Fernan in the 1990s. If there was a law exempting the Senate from doing this, we require that such law be impugned and repealed outright by the Senate itself.
Lastly, we call for the immediate passage of the Freedom of Information Bill which will guarantee the people's right to know where and how the people’s money is used by the Senate and other officials of the government.
Chairperson, Partido Lakas ng Masa (PLM) http://www.masa.ph