Miriam: Using Senate funds for satellite office legal
MANILA -- No less than Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile’s chief of staff signed Senator Miriam Santiago’s lease contract for a satellite office in a building owned by her husband.
Santiago cited an opinion from the Office of the Senate Legal Counsel dated May 7, 2013 upholding a lease contract at Narsan Building in Quezon City for a satellite or extension office.
She said the legal opinion proves that contracts between the Senate and office premises owned by a senator “has been an established practice.”
Former Senator Panfilo Lacson earlier said he has several pieces of evidence to pin down Santiago for graft, including using Senate funds for a satellite office in her husband’s building.
The word war between the former colleagues again erupted last week after Santiago blasted plans to have Lacson serve as consultant in a Senate probe into the pork barrel scam. The word war started during the last Congress also over the alleged misuse of Senate funds.
Santiago said she only charged the Senate the sum of P70,000 monthly for the satellite office. The Senate allows lease payments of up to P178,000 monthly, she said.
“The Senate legal opinion also served to dismiss the charge by Santiago’s enemies that the lease did not undergo public or competitive bidding,” she said.
The Government Procurement Reform Act provides that there is no need for public bidding in highly exceptional cases such as the “negotiated procurement,” also known as the lease of real property.
The Senate legal opinion reads: “It should be noted that lease payments for the extension office of a Senator are legitimately funded via the Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE) budget allocated to a Senator’s office under the General Appropriations Act.”
The Senate Budget Service listed other senators of the 15th Congress with their own lease contracts: Serge Osmena III, who paid P148,200; Edgardo Angara, who paid P82,720; Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., who paid P170,000; and Teofisto Guingona III, who paid P82,500.
She also cited other several former senators of the 12th Congress with their own lease contracts: Noli de Castro, who paid P60,000; Ramon Magsaysay, Jr., who paid P70,000; and Neptali Gonzales, who paid P40,000.
Santiago also noted that her office expenses were all audited and verified by the Commission on Audit since she first became senator in 2004.