MANILA, Philippines - Sen. Panfilo Lacson is bent on filing a case before the Ombudsman against a colleague for allegedly misusing Senate funds.
Speaking to ANC, Lacson declined to identify the senator, saying he continues to collate evidence at this time.
“Right now, I have a complete set of documents at least on one issue that I raised. Those are 3 issues: grocery allowance for the son or the husband and then kasama yung househelp naka payroll sa office. And then yung renting his or her own building para gamitin as her office,” he told ANC.
He refused to say if he was referring to Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, whom he earlier called a “crusading crook.”
The senator said he has consulted some very good lawyers including retired justices who said the offense was “an open and shut case based on the documents.”
He said he is still thinking about whether to refer the matter directly to the Ombudsman and let them conduct a fact-finding investigation or file a complaint against the senator.
“Wala akong personal knowledge. I am basing it all on the documents,” he said.
Lacson said he is open to a full audit of the Senate’s funds, saying that the Upper Chamber is in need of a “major catharsis” after the word war between Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and 4 senators over the Senate’s savings.
However, he thumbed down the proposal of Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano that a private auditing firm should conduct the Senate audit.
“How can we justify using government funds to pay for the private auditing firm when we already have [the Commission on Audit]? Under the Constitution, only the COA is the government auditor,” he said.
“Although novel yung idea, it will encounter constitutional and legal problems,” he added.
Ping: Where’s my P250,000?
In the interview, Lacson denied receiving a P250,000 check from the Office of the Senate President in December. Enrile earlier said he distributed P250,000 checks as Christmas gifts to all senators last month.
This is apart from the P1.6 million each in additional maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) funds he distributed to 18 senators, excluding Cayetano, Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV and Sen. Pia Cayetano.
Lacson said some senators received both the P1.6 million additional budget and the P250,000 from Enrile’s office.
“Some senators got P300,000 and P250,000 so I thought 'Teka muna, bakit ako walang P250,000?' Wala ako nun. Sisingilin ko - eto isusumpa ko. Wala akong P250,000. Hindi sa akin yung P1.6 million, sa office yun," he said.
He said he is saddened by the ongoing word war between Enrile and his critics. “It will take some time before the stains will disappear or go away. It will take time before the Senate can recover from this,” he said.
He said one good result of the ongoing Senate tiff is that the COA will now ask for receipts from lawmakers instead of mere certifications on how they spent their MOOE allotments.
‘JPE has the votes’
Lacson said he also believes Enrile will not be replaced as Senate President because he still has the majority of votes.
“There is no other senator that has certain votes. It’s as simple as that. If you have 13 or more, then you sit as Senate President. That is the math and arithmetic of the whole thing,” he said.
He said Liberal Party senators Francis Pangilinan and Franklin Drilon failed to take over the leadership of the Senate at the start of the 15th Congress because they did not have enough votes.
He also said anyone who can get the support of the Villar and LP blocs inside the Senate could easily replace Enrile.
“There are 8 in the Villar group. Kapag nakuha nila yung 4 na Liberal, that makes 12. So mangangalabit na lang sila ng isa. Hindi ako kasi may isa pang mas madaling kalabitin. The 13th vote is the easiest to get. When you have 12, the 13th will just ask for things,” he said.
Lacson admitted he cannot vote against Enrile since he was among the senators who installed him to the Senate presidency.
He also said it is impractical to change Senate leadership with only a few remaining days left. “Ilang buwan na lang e. We have two weeks before we go to sine die adjournment so what for? It’s impractical. We have only 9 session days,” he said.