by Ernesto T. Solidum
Senate Accountability Defies
As a student of good governance, I am appalled at how our government officials notably the honorable members of the Senate, dispenses its office’s savings. The P30 million under normal circumstances must be returned to the Treasury based on COA regulations. Chiefs of offices are advised to exercise restraint in disbursing unspent funds for the current year since there is perennial shortfall in government collections against expenses. It is patently absurd that we keep on borrowing from IMF and WB only to squander them on petty expenses like Christmas gifts, “pasalubong and pabaon.”
Senate Pres. Juan Ponce Enrile according to news reports acted as Santa Claus handing out P1.6 million as individual cash gifts to his colleagues deemed as personal supporters but only P250,000 to his arch critics. Stung by adverse reaction later this was modified to Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses. (MOE) at a time when the year 2012 was drawing to a close. What in the world is happening to our leaders?
That such action was carried out in ruthless disregard of fairness and sobriety. The money was handed out only to win loyalty and to punish those who are offensive to his taste. Senator Enrile’s status as a seasoned politician and former henchman of Pres. Marcos must have known that leadership demands liberality, forgiveness and restraint. Yet on this instance, he showed his true color. It is outright discriminatory and degrading for four Senators to receive mere pittance from a Chief of Office that claims authority to disburse public funds. Fiscal responsibility however dictates that public funds must be wisely used to the best interest of the service. In no case must people’s money be labeled Christmas gift since it is not his. It is public fund. Santa gives money and gifts to people because it belongs to him.
Senator Miriam D. Santiago’s angry outburst on the Senate floor as well as Senators Antonio Trillanes IV, Allan Peter and sister Pia Cayetano only proved how well money can dominate our lives. Remember the several impeachment proceedings against PGMA that didn’t materialize? It was because of the PDAF or pork barrel that was dangled right on Congressmen’s noses. Presently, there is a rumor of unseating Enrile. At best the only way to resolve the problem is to reward friends and punish detractors. The act is despicable indeed.
Our legislators enrich themselves by passing legislation like raising monthly salaries, funding of congressional staff, perks such as bonus, RATA, PDAF and all others. Our 287 congressmen get PDAF or pork barrel at P70 million per year while our senators P200 million. The majority of the fund is expended without observing strict accounting procedure since they belong to the elite honorary members of Congress. Practically, the P1.6 million Christmas gift or MOOE is considered unnecessary, unjust and unethical. The 30 million could have been spent to feed and clothe victims of typhoon Pablo in Eastern Mindanao.
During the celebrated trial of CJ Renato Corona, the Department of Budget and Management testified that they have issued a policy against acceptance of gifts by public servants. Although directive was more on judges, lawmakers must be more lenient or circumspect since it involves ethical standards of behavior in the government service. “Justices and judges should not accept gifts, donations, discounts, loans and gratuity given in the expectancy of getting something in return”. Basic question is, has this been implemented or pushed under the rug?
The rest a nugget of wisdom on money. “Money will buy a bed but not sleep; books not brains; food but not appetite; finery but not beauty; a house but not a home; medicine but not health; luxuries but not culture; amusement but not happiness; religion but not salvation; and a passport to nowhere but not heaven.” Who says money is powerful and desirable? Think again. /MP