Santiago says Filipinos want to spit at senators
“Every single Filipino wants to spit at a senator, including myself, within spitting distance. We’re severely damaged.”
Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago in a telephone interview with the Inquirer on Tuesday described the depths to which the Senate had been mired in the wake of the alleged raids of billions of pesos in the past decade by senators of state coffers of funds meant to ease poverty and the plight of storm victims.
“So far, it’s beyond remedy,” said the feisty senator who has been elected to the International Court of Justice in The Hague.
Whether senators get around to deleting the congressional Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) in the 2014 national budget, the image of the Senate is in tatters because of the pork barrel scandal, Santiago said on Tuesday.
Senate President Franklin Drilon claimed that several senators had written him of their desire to have their own pork barrel excised from the P2.268-trillion proposed 2014 budget.
But this might not be enough to redeem the chamber, Santiago indicated. “That’s why I’m not in a particular hurry to go back,” said the senator, who is on official leave due to chronic fatigue syndrome.
The only remedy is for the senators to “voluntarily resign” and give way to young people untainted by corruption, she said.
Senators Ramon Revilla Jr., Jinggoy Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile were charged with plunder in the Office of the Ombudsman on Sept. 16, together with businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles and 34 others over the P10-billion pork barrel scam.
Shortly after, Senator Estrada divulged in a privilege speech that several of his colleagues received P50 million in additional pork barrel after the Senate convicted Chief Justice Renato Corona for dishonesty in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth in May 2012.
Budget Secretary Florencio Abad has confirmed 20 senators received additional pork barrel amounting to P1.107 billion months after Corona’s conviction.
Abad said the P1.107 billion was coursed through the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), an impounding mechanism for government savings introduced in 2011. The legality of the DAP has been questioned in the Supreme Court.
Santiago, who voted against the conviction of Corona along with Senators Joker Arroyo, now retired, and Ferdinand Marcos Jr., said the largesse constituted bribery.
Constitutional law expert Fr. Joaquin Bernas and former Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said Malacañang was not authorized under the Constitution to transfer items in the General Appropriations Act from one department to another.
It turned out the senators’ priority projects received varying amounts.
For instance, Drilon, then the Senate finance committee chair and pork barrel dispenser, got an allocation of P100 million; Sen. Francis Escudero, P99 million; and then Senate President Enrile, P92 million.
Some senators admitted that even before Corona’s impeachment trial they were asked to submit a list of projects worth P100 million, but expressed surprise that the funds were coursed through the DAP.
Santiago maintained that she advocated either instant or gradual abolition of the pork barrel, but she wasn’t among those who had written Drilon that they wanted their PDAF allocation deleted from the 2014 budget.
“Abolition must be universal… We should make sure that what you renounce will go to the public,” she said.
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