Angara: Distribution of Senate cash a tradition
MANILA, Philippines - A former Senate President confirms that giving out cash in the form of additional maintenance and other operating expenses is part of the chamber's "tradition," and that it only became controversial recently because not all senators got the same amount.
Sen. Edgardo Angara, who led the Senate from 1993 to 1995, said he himself used to realign the Senate's savings for distribution to other senators at the end of the year, although he doesn't recall the exact amounts.
"That's authorized by the budget law every year. That's honored by tradition," he told reporters on Tuesday.
"The only thing that makes this year's distribution controversial is because it was an uneven distribution."
Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago recently questioned Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile's distribution of supposed "Christmas gifts" amounting to a total of P2.2 million to fellow senators. Enrile said these were additional funds for maintenance and other operating expenses.
Of the amount, only P600,000 went to Santiago and three other senators seen as critical of Enrile: Alan and Pia Cayetano, and Antonio Trillanes IV. They did not receive the additional P1.6 million.
The Commission on Audit (COA) has said there was nothing irregular about it because the law authorizes the heads of government branches to realign their savings to augment other items in the budget.
But Santiago described Enrile's move as unconstitutional, saying it was an inappropriate use of taxpayers' money. The word war between the two veteran senators has since escalated.
Angara said the distribution of savings at the end of the year is a "regular occurrence."
"We take it for granted," he added.