Press Release
January 22, 2013


Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, citing the Constitution, said that when Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile used Senate savings as Christmas gifts of some P2 million each for certain senators, he committed an act "tantamount to grave abuse of discretion, amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction, which can be questioned in the Supreme Court."

The senator referred to Enrile's distribution of some P2 million to every senator, except for four senators perceived as Enrile's political enemies.

Santiago, who is on sick leave for hypertension and bone marrow disorder, issued the statement in a letter sent yesterday (Tuesday, January 22) to COA Chair Ma. Gracia Pulido-Tan.

Santiago told Tan: "A fiscally responsible Senate President should be sensitive to the sources of financing - taxes and user charges paid for by the general public. A fiscally responsible Senate President should let the amount unused (or saved) revert to the National Treasury."

In her letter, Santiago reacted to media reports that Tan had approved the use of Senate funds as Christmas bonuses.

Santiago said that Tan's "casual opinion" could benefit from certain constitutional provisions, which require that realignment must be authorized by law.

"The law mentioned in the Constitution is the General Appropriations Act of 2012. However, it is not a blanket authority for realignment. It is necessary that the budgetary item that will be augmented exists. Savings cannot be used to fund a non-existent program, activity, or project," Santiago said.

Santiago told Tan that: "The consensus among the budget authorities in our country is that in the absence of any request for augmentation, none should be given." Santiago then noted that no senator made a request for augmentation.

"The exercise of the power to realign should not be tainted by grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction. Otherwise, it becomes ripe for litigation before the Supreme Court," the senator said in her letter.

Santiago said that the exclusion, for no stated reason, of four senators including herself, from the alleged augmented MOOE "is a shocking abuse of discretion amounting to excess of jurisdiction, under the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution."

The senator said that "even with the power to realign, in the absence of the power to distribute financial incentives, the Senate President cannot give away year-end bonuses to senators."

The senator continued: "Savings from an item may be used to augment spending that was not envisioned at the time that the budget was approved. The distribution of the bonuses does not fall under this concept of augmentation."

Santiago said that although the Senate President, like certain other high officials, has power to realign, that power should be exercised legitimately.

"The issue is not the existence of the power, but the legitimacy of the exercise of that power," she said.

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