Pimentel wants to review Senate finances amid ‘cash gifts’ controversy

January 14, 2013 10:10 pm 

By Jelly Musico

MANILA, Jan. 14 – While saying nothing is illegal in the distribution of cash gifts to senators, Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III said he would still use the controversy as opportunity to push for his original plan to review the Senate finances.

”Actually, I have already drafted a resolution two months ago to review the oversight committee creation as well as budget in the Senate,” Pimentel said in a media interview on Monday.

”Maybe, we should look for ways on how to save money and lessen the budget of the Senate,” he added.

Under his proposal, Pimentel said he would like to determine if there is really a need to allot separate budget if a senator is holding a committee chairmanship.

”I thought oversight function of a legislator is built-in already in the conception of legislation. I was surprised being a new member of the Senate that their addition to regular committees, you have oversight committees,” Pimentel said

The lawmaker from Mindanao proposes to increase the budget of the regular committee, instead of creating oversight committee that would require separate budget.

”Why not increase the budget of the regular committee to include oversight function and then stop creating oversight committees separately. I think we will be able to save few millions on this,” Pimentel explained.

Like Sen. Panfilo Lacson, Pimentel questioned Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago’s statement describing the additional P1.6 million maintenance and other operating expenses given to each senator except to four including Santiago as ‘bribe’ to prevent ouster of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.

”That’s very unfair. There is no bribery because in the first place nobody approached me and told me that I have this money in exchange of (sic) something. So where is the bribery there,” Pimentel said.

Due to the controversy, Pimentel said he freeze the additional P1.6 million MOOE as well as the P250,000 cash gift given to every senator towards the end of 2012.

”Because of the controversy, I will quarantine the money. I will not touch it. If there would be strong clamor to return it, then I still have the money to return,” Pimentel said.

Pimentel said he intends to use the additional MOOE in the relied distribution to the victims of typhoon Pablo which devastated big part of Mindanao, particularly Campostela Valley and Davao, last December.

Aside from Santiago, other senators who have not been given additional P1.6 million MOOE were minority members Alan Peter Cayetano, Pia Cayetano and Antonio Trillanes IV.

Santiago returned her P250,000 cash gift and accused Enrile of bribing the senators to avoid being replaced as Senate president.

Pimentel defended Enrile’s action, saying: “it was judgment call of the Senate president being the head of the institution.”

”At the end of the year, savings are determined. He has the power to either realign the savings or not. If his choice is to realign, the power is there,” Pimentel said.

The Commission on Audit has spoken in favor of Enrile’s action, saying the Senate President has the discretion on what to do with the Senate savings at the end of the year. (PNA)

HBC/JFM

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