ABS-CBNnews.com | 01/10/2013 10:34 PM
MANILA, Philippines - Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago rarely attends Senate sessions and only does so to show off, Senate President Juan Ponce-Enrile claimed on Thursday.
Enrile issued the statement amid the simmering dispute between the 2 lawmakers over the P30 million "cash gifts" the Senate president gave to their colleagues.
Santiago railed against it and urged the Commission on Audit to look into how government agencies and the Senate use their savings.
Enrile fired back at Santiago and said the disbursement of P2.21 million each to most senators is legal.
"Totoo yun, pera ng tao ng bayan yan at alam ko yun at hindi na kailangang ituro sa akin ng isang taong halos bumagsak sa exam," he told radio dzMM.
"Wala akong nilabag na batas," he said. "Ginagawa na iyan. Tumanggap si Miriam noong 2009, 2010, 2011 at wala siyang reklamo noon dahil part siya ng majority."
"Si Miriam hindi umaattend ng caucus namin yan. Baka wala pang kalahati ng session days. Umaattend lang pag gustong magpasikat," Enrile claimed.
He also accused Santiago of coveting his seat. "Tingin niya, (Miriam) siya na mae-elect na Senate president."
Enrile also explained why he refused Santiago's gift of biscuits. "Ayaw ko kumain ng biscuit. At natatakot ako dahil galit sa 'kin eh baka may lason iyun."
Santiago has accused the Senate leadership of using their offices' budget for their own purposes.
"Hindi nila ginagastos buong budget nila kung hindi ayaw gastusin para ma claim na savings sa katapusan ng taon, at ipapamahagi sa sarili nila, iyun ang racket doon," she said.
According to official figures on extra disbursements made to senators, all of them got P600,000 in the first tranche.
Two other tranches of P1.618 million were also given to all senators except Enrile, Santiago, and 2 other senators.
Aside from this, Enrile also gave all senators a P250,000 Christmas gift from the savings of his own office.
Santiago claims Enrile's move violates the law.
"Kung ganun pala yun, eh di lahat ng kalaban ng Senate president ay 'di niya bibigyan at tapos mas malaki pera niya at ipamamahagi lang niya sa mga kapartido lang niya," she said.
Santiago also returned the Christmas cash gift from enrile.
Enrile, meanwhile, said this has been the practice since the Cory Aquino administration.
He is also open to COA probe on Senate funds.
Enrile added that the Senate has a committee on accounts that monitors how the Senate's budget is spent, and every senator is required to file a liquidation report on how the additional funds are spent.
COA: Enrile has discretion
The COA, on the other hand, said Enrile has discretion on what to do with the Senate's savings.
"Sa aking pagkakaintindi sa sinasaad ng batas, meron siyang [Enrile] kapangyarihan at mandatong gawin yun," said COA chairperson Grace Pulido-Tan.
This may even include pocketing the money.
"Why not? Theoretically, in the realm of possibility, of course! Pero siguro naman ang ating hinalal sa Senado at Kongreso ay mga responsableng tao," Tan said. - with a report from Anthony Taberna, ABS-CBN News; ANC