MANILA - Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago plans to question before the Supreme Court the authority of heads of offices to use their savings at their discretion, an issue that further fueled his tiff with Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.
She said she will wait first for an opinion from the Commission on Audit on the matter, part of the administrative remedies before she can go up to the SC. An inquiry was sent last January 10.
COA chief Ma. Gracia Pulido Tan has already made statements, however, that heads of agencies do have that kind of power.
“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,” said Santiago.
“Enrile admitted that he is giving away taxpayers’ money of some P2 million as gifts to senators. And the COA does not see anything wrong in that? Suppose next year, the Christmas gift for a senator is raised to P3 million, and the year later, to P4 million. Does COA mean that the amount is unlimited? We are talking of taxpayers’ money here,” she asked.
She dismissed criticisms that she herself received Senate savings in the past.
“They are talking from a position of total ignorance. When I was first elected senator in 1995, I returned my savings at yearend to the Senate. The next year, I refused to get my so-called additional pork barrel on the ground that it had no legal basis. This was featured on the front page story of a prominent daily. Sometime later, I asked the Senate budget director to give me a rundown of the total income of every senator. The Senate President at that time issued a ban on the release of Senate finance documents, even to senators like myself,” she said.
Santiago also lambasted anew Enrile, who refused to debate with her and called on her to resign instead.
“Enrile does not even have the guts to face me at a public televised debate. Instead, he has been hiding behind the tails of his attack dogs. He has definitely gone off the deep end by attacking me on a personal basis. He has resorted to arguments based on personalities (argumentum ad hominem) which is not allowed in any debate,” Santiago said.