The reign of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile could be coming to an end. If 2012 saw him lauded by the public for what they thought was his “greatest” performance during the impeachment trial of former Chief Justice Renato Corona, 2013 is starting out to be “scandalous” for the octogenarian politician.
Concerned Filipinos were shocked to read reports that Enrile gave a whopping bonus of 1.6 million pesos each to 18 senators last Christmas. In one report, it was said that the funds for the alleged bonuses came from “the funds allotted for the Senate post vacated by President Aquino when he won the presidential election in 2010.”
It is interesting to note that rather than hand over unused funds back to the treasury, Enrile saw it fit to distribute the so-called “savings” to Senate employees as a personal gift. According to the same report, even drivers and security personnel in the senate got bonuses ranging from 50,000.00 to 120,000.00 pesos.
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It is simply outrageous that Enrile seems to think that running the Senate is like running a company — that they are entitled to bonuses when the company makes a profit. But the funds of the Senate are not profits. They came from hardworking citizens.
What’s even more shocking is that some senators didn’t see anything wrong with what Enrile did because it turns out that senators received bonuses every year coming from the same “savings”. No wonder most people, particularly relatives of those already in Congress are desperate to be a member of Congress. They already know what they are entitled to get once there. No wonder the Senate President is pushing his son, Jack Enrile to run for the senate especially since the former could be retiring soon and won’t be getting any more “bonuses”.
Some senators even justified receiving the bonuses by saying that “under the Constitution, the heads of constitutional offices like the Senate President are given the power to realign and utilize appropriations in the budget to other existing items.” The question is, how do the senators define “existing items”? Does it include personal use of the funds or pocketing it? Of course not. Who is monitoring how the Senators spend the funds though? Apparently, no one is doing an accounting at the moment because it is only now that Senator Miriam Santiago was compelled to call on the Commission on Audit to audit the so-called “savings” or “secret funds”:
“The so-called savings of each public office has turned into a national scandal, the grandmama of all scandals. The Constitution allows savings to be used by the office at the end of the year. But in reality, the head of office manipulates the books and creates so-called savings, by refusing to fill up vacancies, or refusing to buy essential office supplies or services, or capital equipment,” Santiago said.
“These so-called “˜enforced savings’ are then distributed among the highest officials, in the guise of Christmas bonuses,” Santiago added.
Santiago’s request seems like an afterthought considering they say that this has been the practice for years. Did Senator Santiago not know this? Since the “realigning” of the unused funds by giving these to Senators as Christmas bonuses is done every year, why is it only now that this information has been publicized? Why are there senators who are making some noise about it only now? Could it have something to do with another allegation that some of the senators like Santiago, Antonio Trillanes, Allan and Peter Cayetano received less than the rest? Some people cannot help but think that these senators received less because they got under Enrile’s skin at one point or another in 2012 while most seem to just suck up to him.
It’s funny how our politicians especially old-timers like Enrile think that they can use public funds for things that will not even benefit the majority. It’s pathetic. On one hand, Congress can appropriate so much funds for their branch while on the other, there are also reports saying the governor of Albay, Joey Salceda is asking for more aid from the international community for the victims of super typhoon Pablo that devastated some parts of Mindanao. To be specific, he is seeking $65 billion in aid for the victims and damage to infrastructure. It is estimated that there are 6.2 million people in need of assistance particularly needing food supply as a result of the devastation in the region.
Instead of blaming the lack of response from the international community who are probably getting desensitized to the natural and man-made disasters occurring ever more frequently in the Philippines, Governor Salceda should look locally and ask Senators like Enrile for assistance. If members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) who receive less income than our “distinguished” senators can sacrifice their Christmas bonuses and give it to typhoon Pablo victims, surely the senators can do the same thing with the money they received, money that is not even meant for personal use.
One can’t help but wonder if Senator Enrile even thought about helping out the victims of the typhoon or any of our kababayans in need while he was “realigning” the “savings” in the senate budget. They could be far from his mind considering he is too preoccupied with the thought that someone could be plotting his ouster as Senate President. Some are thinking that by giving monetary gifts courtesy of the people’s money to the Senators, he is ensuring that he can stay as the presiding officer at least until the senatorial election is over. It appears he really does want to stick around as long as possible or until his son is voted in the senate.
Senator Enrile has been the Presiding Officer since 2008. It’s really quite annoying to think that he still gets insecure about being ousted. Come to think of it, Enrile could be one of the reasons why the Philippines remain a basketcase. He has been in politics for so long but the country hasn’t changed. Yes, the seasoned politician has not made a difference to the country at all. He’s just there going with the flow wherever the wind blows while holding on tightly to his seat. Somebody ought to knock him down to shake things up a bit.
In life, things are not always what they seem.