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Enrile gave P1.6M to all fellow senators except his foes

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and at least three other senators on Wednesday confirmed that millions were added to the budgets of senators, but denied that these constitute bribes. In a statement released Wednesday, Enrile said that before the Christmas break he gave P1.6 million each as additional "operating expenses" to all senators except himself and his known foes:
  • Senate Minority Floor Leader Alan Peter Cayetano,
  • Senator Pia Cayetano,
  • Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, and
  • Senator Antonio Trillanes IV.
The above four senators only received P250,000 for Christmas, a pittance compared to their colleagues. The Cayetanos, Defensor-Santiago, and Trillanes have all clashed with Enrile in the past year, and have been rumored to support Enrile's replacement as Senate president. Trillanes in particular had a highly publicized spat with Enrile on the Senate floor last September over Trillanes' secret negotiations with China over the West PHL Sea dispute. Trillanes had even called Enrile a "lackey" of former president Gloria Arroyo. Enrile said the P250,000 checks given to all 23 senators were from his own office's savings and not from the Senate President's discretionary funds. Separate checks of over a million each were given to those not considered his foes. "That was a result of the 'lambing' of some senators who I will no longer name, if I had some 'pamasko' for them. I decided to give to all, not only to those who were teasing me about pamasko," he said. This was separate from the additional MOOE given to the some senators last December. Sen. Santiago returned the money to Enrile. "I did not buy this position" Enrile said the funds should not be considered bribery amid rumors that there is a plot to oust him as Senate president. "All the senators, including those now complaining or calling it “unconscionable” and “unconstitutional” received these amounts. Yet they never said anything nor questioned it before," he said. "Those senators who think that I am bribing anyone with additional budgets in order to keep my post as Senate President must have a very low opinion about their own colleagues. I was elected as Senate President twice and I can look at anyone straight in the eye in saying that I did not buy this position. Not one single centavo of the people’s money is spent just to enable me to cling to this office," he added. Equal allotment? Enrile explained that the Senate budget office advised him that after all their obligations and projected expenses, the available amount for additional MOOE for the senators for the year-end of 2012 was P2.218 million each. He said the first tranche of P600,000 in additional MOOE was given to the offices of all 23 senators last November.   He said the balance was divided into two tranches of P1.3 million and P318,000 last December to the 18 senators. Enrile said he stands by his decision not to authorize any further releases of additional MOOE last December to the four senators. "It is time to call a spade a spade. Senators Alan Peter Cayetano, Pia Cayetano and Antonio Trillanes are supposedly members of the Minority in the Senate," he said. "On the other hand, Senator Santiago’s supposed membership in the Majority is questionable, to say the least, as she has publicly and repeatedly denounced and attacked me, just like Sen. Trillanes. She does not consider me a friend and I do not think she considers me as the head of the Senate and that is fine with me," he added. Due budgets However, Enrile quickly noted that the two Cayetanos, Santiago, and Trillanes were given their due budgets. "They each got [the first tranche of] P600,000. On top of that, I have approved all their requests for cash advances, realignment of various items in their respective senator’s committee and oversight committee budgets to their MOOE so that they could use the same and any savings therefrom," he said. He said they were not given the second tranche because they are members of the minority while Santiago has only been "masquerading" as a member of the majority. He said that Santiago specifically holds the chairmanship of the committee on Constitutional amendments plus two oversight committees which have annual budgets of P15 million and P10 million.  Pia Cayetano likewise chairs the committees on health and youth, women, and family relations plus the Clean Water Act oversight committee which has an annual budget of P10 million. Trillanes, despite his move to the minority, also retained  the chairmanship of the civil service panel and of the oversight committee on government procurement which have a budget of P10 million yearly and was increased to P15 million.   Alan Cayetano, as a Senate officer, has a bigger budget than the other senators.  He also has a budget as a member of the Commission on Appointments, chair of the E-Commerce oversight committee with and annual budget of P6 million and chair of a new oversight committee with an annual budget of P10 million. "Sen. Joker Arroyo is the only member of the Minority who really and actually acts as a member of the Minority, doing his job at fiscalizing even more than the Minority Floor Leader. He declined to chair any committee, regular or oversight, so unlike the Cayetano siblings," said Enrile. "While it is said to be purely discretionary on the part of the Senate President what additional budget to grant out of savings, or to give any at all for that matter, I have exercised such discretion with prudence and equity, and I have given the maximum that we could grant to all the senators concerned," he added. Not a bribe In separate text messages on Wednesday, Senate Majority Floor Leader Vicente Sotto III, Sen. Panfilo Lacson, and Trillanes likewise denied that the money constitutes a bribe. "Meron P300,000 but it's for additional operational funds from our offices.  Ibinibigay at the end of the year.  Hindi Christmas gift, ang dumi ng isip ng ibang tao," said Sotto. "Hindi kailangan ni JPE na mag-bribe, ang cheap naman ng tingin sa amin kung mababribe kami.  Hallucinations lang ang ibang pananaw ng ibang tao.  Ni hindi ko nakita yung P300,000 sa office ko eh, diretso agad sa office funds ko yun, malamang isinasama nga nila sa savings," he added. Lacson also confirmed receiving the P300,000 but said that it was not a bribe and just additional budget. "I just checked with my chief of staff.  He said our office did receive P300,000 additional MOOE from the Office of the Senate President.  It was what it is - MOOE. It was not a bribe," said Lacson. "I do not receive bribe money, even lobby money from any interest groups or from anyone even if he is our Senate president," he added. Trillanes likewise told GMA News Online on Wednesday that these MOOE are "assumed to be regular releases subject to clearing and Commission on Audit (COA) auditing." Christmas bonanza In  a text message to GMA News Online, Trillanes said that his office used the Christmas bonanza to "fund relief missions to the areas affected by typhoon Pablo in Northern Mindanao. It was not given in cash and was not specified as a Christmas gift." Santiago, on the other hand, returned Enrile's gift. "So Sen. Santiago gave back my gift, as I gave back hers. Fair enough," Enrile said. In a separate statement released Wednesday, Santiago confirmed this. “He returned my biscuits, so I returned his cash,” she said. Source of funds Enrile said that while the vacant seat of one senator is a source of additional funds for the Senate, the budget for the seat is not the only source of the chamber's savings. A Senate seat was vacated after President Benigno Aquino III, who was previously a senator, assumed the presidency in 2010. "As agreed in the past with all the Senators, the savings from the vacant seat may be used for the other expenditures and requirements of the Senate, including the augmentation of the budgets of the senators serving their terms," he said. Because of this, he said the Senate budget office always determines how much savings were generated and how these can be allocated for the senators' additional MOOE and the Christmas package for Senate employees, which is due under the Collective Negotiation Agreement with the employees union (S.E.N.A.D.O.). "Since I became Senate President in November of 2008, I have always prioritized the needs of our employees before determining and exercising my discretion on the utilization of the remaining available savings. The records will show that since I became Senate President, I have granted the maximum benefits to our employees as our budgetary savings allow each year," he said. He said that since 2008, he has authorized the grant of additional MOOE to all senators in the following amounts: P1 million for 2008; P1 million for 2009; P1.316M and P318,000 for 2010; and P500,000, P1.3M, and P318,000 for 2011. "Any additional MOOE approved by the Senate President for each senator is not a matter of entitlement. Neither should such be mistaken as taken from the Senate President’s discretionary funds," he said. "The expenditures charged to the OSP’s discretionary funds are properly documented and I have made the same available even for the contingencies of the Secretariat and the needs of some Committees and Senators, as they would request from time to time," he added. - VVP, GMA News