Enrile’s reply to the P1.6M he allegedly gave as “cash gifts” to 18 Senators.

This is the press statement of  Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, in reaction to the exclusive  article that appeared on the Philippine Daily Inquirer , ‘Enrile gave 18 senators P1.6M each for Christmas’.

It is unfortunate that the Inquirer either refused to reveal or was requested by the Senators that its reporters interviewed to hide their identities, in relation to their statements on the issue of the additional MOOE of P1.6M I allegedly gave as “cash gifts” to 18 Senators.

To set the record straight:

  1. While it is true that the vacant seat of one Senator is a source of additional funds for the Senate, the budget for that seat is not the only source of the Senate’s savings. As agreed in the past with all the Senators, the savings from the vacant seat may be used for the other expenditures and requirements of the Senate, including the augmentation of the budgets of the Senators serving their terms.
  2. Hence, towards the end of each year and before the holidays, the Senate Secretariat and the Senate’s budget office makes a determination of how much savings we have generated and how to allocate available savings, including the Christmas package for the Senate employees, what is due under the Collective Negotiation Agreement with the employees union (S.E.N.A.D.O), and what may be available for distribution as additional MOOE to the Senators’ offices.
  3. Since I became Senate President in November of 2008, I have always prioritized the needs of our employees before determining and exercising my discretion on the utilization of the remaining available savings. The records will show that since I became Senate President, I have granted the maximum benefits to our employees as our budgetary savings allow each year.
  4. Also as Senate President, I have authorized the grant to ALL Senators of the following amounts per Senator’s office as additional MOOE (Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses): For 2008-1M (former Senate President Villar had earlier released  a separate amount of P500,000); for 2009- 1M; for 2010- P1.316M;  P318,000; for 2011- P500,000, P1.3M, and P318,000.
  5. All the Senators, including those now complaining or calling it “unconscionable” and “unconstitutional” received these amounts. Yet they never said anything nor questioned it before.
  6. For year-end of 2012, the Senate budget office advised me that after all our obligations and projected expenses, the available amount for the additional MOOE for the Senators was a total of P2.218M for each Senator. The 1st tranche of this was in the amount of P600,000 and ALL THE 23 SENATORS’ OFFICES RECEIVED THE P600,000 additional MOOE last November.
  7. The balance was divided into 2 tranches of P1.3M and P318,000 in addition to the first P600,000, and these 2 tranches were approved by me for release before the Christmas holiday break, EXCEPT TO MYSELF AND 4 OTHER SENATORS, NAMELY, SENATORS ALAN CAYETANO, PIA CAYETANO, ANTONIO TRILLANES AND MIRIAM DEFENSOR SANTIAGO.
  8. I confirm that I gave the instructions to my Chief of Staff to exclude me and the 4 other Senators in the succeeding releases of any further additional MOOE. I also confirm that, as requested by the Senate Budget office, I approved the use of the amounts that I waived and those that I did not authorize to be released to the 4 Senators to be used by the Senate for its other expenditures. This is all on record.

It is not true that the 4 Senators did not get any additional MOOE. They each got P600,000. On top of that, I have approved ALL their requests for cash advances, realignment of various items in their respective Senator’s, Committee and Oversight Committee budgets to their MOOE so that they could use the same and any savings therefrom.

Any additional MOOE approved by the Senate President for each Senator is not a matter of ENTITLEMENT. Neither should such be mistaken as taken from the Senate President’s DISCRETIONARY FUNDS. The expenditures charged to the OSP’s discretionary funds are properly documented and I have made the same available even for the contingencies of the Secretariat and the needs of some Committees and Senators, as they would request from time to time.

While it is said to be purely discretionary on the part of the Senate President what additional budget to grant out of savings, or to give any at all for that matter, I have exercised such discretion with prudence and equity, and I have given the maximum that we could grant to all the Senators concerned.

I stand by the exercise of my sole discretion not to authorize any further releases of ADDITIONAL MOOE last December to the 4 Senators.

It is time to call a spade a spade.

Senators Alan Peter Cayetano, Pia Cayetano and Antonio Trillanes are supposedly members of the Minority in the Senate. On the other hand, Senator Santiago’s supposed membership in the Majority is questionable, to say the least, as she has publicly and repeatedly denounced and attacked me, just like Sen. Trillanes. She does not consider me a friend and I do not think she considers me as the head of the Senate and that is fine with me.

Yet, masquerading as a member of the Majority, Sen. Santiago continues to hold the chairmanship of the Committee on Constitutional Amendments plus 2 oversight committees with annual budgets of P15M and P 10M.

Sen. Trillanes, despite his move to the Minority, has retained the chairmanship of the Civil Service Committee and of the Oversight Committee on Government Procurement with a budget of P10 Million annually which was just recently increased to P15M.

The Minority Leader, Sen. Alan Cayetano, being an Officer of the Senate, has a bigger budget than the other Senators. He also has a budget as a member of the Commission on Appointments, the chairmanship of the E-Commerce Oversight Committee with an annual budget of P6M, and now a new oversight committee chairmanship (BCDA) which he requested to be created with an annual budget of P10M.

Senator Pia Cayetano chairs the Committee on Health and the Committee on Youth, Women and Family Relations plus the Clean Water Act oversight committee with an annual budget of P10M.

Sen. Joker Arroyo is the only member of the Minority who really and actually acts as a member of the Minority, doing his job at fiscalizing even more than the Minority Floor Leader. He declined to chair any committee, regular or oversight, so unlike the Cayetano siblings.

Regarding the P250,000 checks from my Office which I gave to all the Senators, that was a result of the “lambing” of some Senators who I will no longer name, if I had some “pamasko” for them. I decided to give to ALL, not only to those who were teasing me about “pamasko”, OUT OF MY OWN OFFICE’S SAVINGS, AND NOT FROM THE SENATE PRESIDENT’S DISCRETIONARY FUNDS.

Last Monday, I was told that Sen. Santiago sent me back a check for the same amount of P250,000 with a letter from her Chief of Staff explaining that the check I gave was inadvertently deposited. So Sen. Santiago gave back my gift, as I gave back hers. Fair enough.

The only thing I find humorous about this whole controversy is that I am being accused of “giving”, albeit generously to most, but not as generously to a few…4 to be exact.

Those Senators who think that I am bribing anyone with additional budgets in order to keep my post as Senate President must have a very low opinion about their own colleagues. I was elected as Senate President twice and I can look at anyone straight in the eye in saying that I did not buy this position. Not one single centavo of the people’s money is spent just to enable me to cling to this office.

Each one of us must account to the people how we spend taxpayer’s money as we perform our jobs. I continue to serve solely at the pleasure of the majority of the members of the chamber, and we all owe it to the institution and the people to keep its honor and dignity.