Sen. Loren Legarda on Wednesday denied having received a P1.6 million cash gift from Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile last Christmas but said if the money had been set aside for her she would use it for a resettlement program for people in areas ravaged by Typhoon “Pablo.”
Legarda, who visited typhoon-devastated areas in New Bataan and Monkayo towns in Compostela Valley; and Mati in Davao Oriental the past two days, told reporters she had to check first with the Department of Finance as soon as she got back to Manila if there was indeed a cash gift for her.
She said as far as she knew, she never received money from Enrile last Christmas.
“I saw it in the papers, but I haven’t received it,” Legarda said.
Even as she denied having received money from Enrile, Legarda said she saw nothing wrong about the cash gift since it would still be subject to liquidation and would be for official use only.
“That will become part of our operating expenses. We are allowed to realign funds and all those funds will be subjected to liquidation and intended for official use,” she said.
In Manila, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV assumed there was nothing irregular with the P250,000 in check he received from Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.
The senator, who figured in a public spat with Enrile last year, also took with a grain of salt the fact that he was among four senators who received much less than their colleagues who reportedly received P1.6 million from the Senate President last Christmas.
Moreover, Trillanes told reporters Wednesday he did not think that the monetary gift was a bribe to senators to keep Enrile as Senate President.
“Definitely, it’s not a bribe to me. I got a small amount,” Trillanes said.
Asked if Enrile’s unequal treatment of the senators could lead to his ouster as chamber leader, Trillanes, who had openly backed a Senate coup against the veteran lawmaker, said: “I will leave it up to the political analysts and objective observers. All I can say is the check was sent to my office and we used it in a way that helped others.”
Trillanes’ office used the money for its relief operations for the victims of Pablo last year, spearheaded by the Magdalo chapters in the devastated areas.
“I confirm that my office in the Senate received P250,000. It was a check and not in cash bundles. We used if for our relief missions in northern Mindanao for the victims of Typhoon Pablo,” Trillanes said.
“If we have to return it, we will raise the money,” he added.
Trillanes added that the Commission on Audit should be able to determine whether the money given by Enrile’s office to the senators was aboveboard.
He also said that he would have to discuss with his fellow Nacionalista Party senators what to do about this issue.
If Trillanes was caustic to Enrile in their verbal tussles last year, he had tepid replies to questions raised over the Senate President’s Christmas bonanza for the senators.
It was mainly because, Trillanes said, he had a “presumption of regularity” over the distribution of the checks.
“It wasn’t (indicated) that ‘This is a Christmas gift for you,’” Trillanes said.
“The check was from the Office of the Senate President, which you assume was regular and part of the funds that the office used for its purpose … We welcome that when given. I assumed all senators got the same and presumed it to be regular,” he added.
Trillanes learned from reporters only Wednesday that Enrile had said the P250,000 check was his Christmas gift to the senators.
Even if the money had been given as part of additional MOOE, or maintenance and other operating expenses, which was under the discretion of Enrile, Trillanes said he did not mind that he got much less than his colleagues.
“It’s fine by me because that’s the price you have to pay if you stand up for your conviction,” Trillanes said.
Originally posted at 09:12 pm | Wednesday, January 09, 2013