Press Release
August 25, 2013


The Office of the Senate Legal Counsel issued a legal opinion upholding the lease contract over one floor of an office building owned by the family of Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago.

The lease contract was signed by the Senate President's chief of staff and a building administrator of Narsan Building in Quezon City, over an office space serving as a "satellite" or extension office of Sen. Santiago.

While this developed, the Senate Budget Service confirmed that while Santiago charged the Senate only the sum of P70,000 monthly, the Senate actually allows lease payments up to P178,000 monthly.

Thus, the Senate saves money with the low Santiago lease, which atP70,000 monthly, has never been changed from 1994 up to the present.

The monthly lease payment of translates to only P173 per sq.m., amounting to about 1/3 of market rates in the same area.

The Senate legal opinion also served to dismiss the charge by Santiago's enemies that the lease did not undergo public or competitive bidding.

The Senate cited R.A. No. 9184, aka Government Procurement Reform Act, which provides that there is no need for public bidding in highly exceptional cases such as the "negotiated procurement," also known as the lease of real property.

The legal opinion, issued 7 May 2013, confirmed that contracts between the Senate and office premises owned by a senator "has been an established practice."

The Senate legal opinion also said: "It should be noted that lease payments for the extension office of a Senator are legitimately funded via the Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE) budget allocated to a Senator's office under the General Appropriations Act."

The Senate Budget Service listed other senators of the 15th Congress with their own lease contracts, as follows: Serge Osmena III, who paid P148,200; Edgardo Angara, who paid P 82,720; Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., who paid P 170,000; and Teofisto Guingona III, who paid P82,500.

It also listed several former senators of the 12th Congress with their own lease contracts, as follows: Noli de Castro, who paid P 60,000; Ramon Magsaysay, Jr., who paid P 70,000; and Neptali Gonzales, who paid P40,000.

Further, it appears that from 2004 when Santiago first became Senator up to the present, all her office expenses were audited and verified by the COA internal auditor, who did not suspend or disallow a single disbursement from Santiago's office.

Enclosed is a copy of the Senate legal opinion dated 7 May 2013.

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