Return the people’s money, PLM urges senators

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Partido Lakas ng Masa (PLM) is spearheading a campaign to eradicate corruption, patronage politics and shamelessness among government officials.

On the scandal over Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile’s distribution of P30 million to the senators last December, we call on all the senators concerned to return the so-called “gifts” or “bonus” right away. Such appalling act of dispensing people’s money for the senators to spend as they choose disgraces and dishonors the Senate.

While we welcome Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago’s move to immediately return the money, we call on each senator to give back the money—not to Senate President Enrile but to the government coffers as savings, which it is.  We would welcome the government’s allocation of the fund for urgent social welfare projects, specifically for the victims of Typhoon “Pablo” in Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental.

We condemn Senator Enrile’s use of the savings to divide the Senate into those he likes and those he hates. This type of patronage politics should be stopped, be it in the Senate or any institutions of government.

We also deplore the Commission on Audit’s pathetic response to Enrile’s misuse of government funds. The COA stated that Enrile’s action is aboveboard and is allowed under the General Appropriations Act.

Firstly, the fund is intended for the maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) of the members of the Senate. Using it for other purposes—in this case, Christmas bonus—is the height of brazenness (kapal-mukha in Filipino). Secondly, while the disbursement of “savings” may be considered legal, it is downright unethical and callous given the state of poverty and deprivation experienced by millions of Filipinos today—every day.

We demand that the Senate fund and each senator’s funds be subjected to scrutiny and audit by the government. We should stop the practice of exempting the Senate from audit and from liquidation or submission of  receipts—a practice which has been started during the time of Senate President Marcelo Fernan in the 1990s. If there’s a law exempting the Senate from this, we require that the law be repealed outright on the initiative of the Senate itself.

Lastly, we call for the immediate passage of the freedom of information bill which will guarantee the people of the right to know where and how people’s money is used by the Senate and other officials of the government.

—SONNY MELENCIO,

chair, Partido Lakas ng Masa,

partidolakasngmasa@gmail.com

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