Santiago mulls bringing cash gift issue to SC-A A +A
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
SENATOR Miriam Defensor-Santiago said she plans to bring the issue of discretionary spending by some government officials of their offices' savings to the Supreme Court (SC) following a latest controversy involving Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.
Santiago earlier claimed that Enrile gave her last December a P250,000 cheque as her office's additional expenses. She, however, rejected it and returned the cheque to Enrile as she believed that it was part of the Senate President's Christmas bonuses to senators.
Santiago then requested the Commission on Audit (COA) to investigate the supposed abuse of government's savings. She said she would wait for the report of COA on the inquiry she sent last January 10.
"I am required by law to observe the principle of exhaustion of administrative remedies. This means that first I have to go to the COA, and request for a study and report on the issue of constitutionality. If the COA opinion differs from mine, only then will I be allowed to file a court case. If not, the court will dismiss my petition," she said.
Last week, Enrile reportedly distributed P1.6 million to his colleagues in the Senate as additional maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE). Four senators, perceived as the Senate leader's critics, however, did not receive the said amount.
In a press statement, COA chairperson Grace Pulido-Tan said there is nothing irregular with Enrile's use of the Senate savings and whether or not it was used excessively "is something only the constituents of the respective legislators can determine."
Pursuant to the Constitution, Tan said 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."
Santiago said she felt "very disappointed and frustrated" at the statement of the COA chair.
"If she said that, then she may have overlooked the constitutional provisions on due process and equal protection. I hope she did not mean that COA rules vest unlimited discretion on every head of office. Every discretionary use of budget funds is always limited by constitutional provisions," she said.
The senator also called the distribution of additional MOOE during Christmas as "phony," saying there is no more need for additional office expenses when the Senate has effectively closed for the year and new MOOE will be provided at the start of the year. (Kathrina Alvarez/Sunnex)