COA: Realignment of Senate savings legal-A A +A
Saturday, January 12, 2013
THE Commission on Audit (COA) sees nothing irregular with Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile’s use of the Senate savings, chairperson Grace Pulido Tan said.
In a COA press statement released Friday, Tan said pursuant to the Constitution, the General Appropriations Act 2012 authorizes both the Senate President and the House Speaker “to augment any item in the general appropriations law for their respective offices from any savings in other items of their respective appropriations”.
“The authority conferred by the law upon the Senate President and the House Speaker to fix and determine salaries, allowances, and budgetary requirements of personnel, among others was confirmed by Congress through Concurrent Resolution No. 5 adopted by both Houses in June 2011,” Tan added.
The COA chair further said that whether the savings were used excessively “is something only the constituents of the respective legislators can determine”.
Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago earlier requested COA to investigate the supposed abuse of government’s savings, following news reports that Enrile distributed as “cash gifts” the 2012 savings of the Senate.
According to Enrile, for the year-end 2012, the Senate savings will allow the 23 senators to receive an additional P2.218 million for maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE).
The first tranche of P600,000 was distributed to all the 23 senators in November, while the balance of P1.6 million was divided into two tranches of P1.3 million and P318,000 and were approved to be released before the Christmas holiday break.
Four senators, including Santiago, Alan Peter Cayetano and his sister, Pia, and Antonio Trillanes IV, however, did not receive the remaining balance. The four are perceived as critics of the Senate President.
Meanwhile, congressmen urged House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. to voluntarily disclose the use of the chamber’s savings.
Earlier, House committee on accounts chairman and An Waray party-list Representative Bem Noel said all its members received an additional P200,000 in the month of December as additional MOOE.
Noel said this was the usual practice since the 14th Congress led by former Speaker Prospero Nograles.
“The House can voluntarily do that, to show and reflect each and every parcel how MOEE was spent in the day to day work and operations of representatives, district and party-list alike,” Cibac party-list Representative Sherwin Tugna said.
“The Speaker may likewise do the same (voluntarily disclose savings) to avoid controversies,” Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat Jr. added. (Kathrina Alvarez/Sunnex)