Miriam to petition SC on Enrile fund releases

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Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago said on Wednesday that she plans to file before the Supreme Court a petition questioning the authority and absolute discretion  of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile to distribute “additional Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE) from savings.

However, Santiago, who along with three other members of the minority, was excluded from the P1.6 million distributed to 18 senators last December, said she will have to wait for the Commission on Audit (COA) to send a reply to her inquiry that she sent last January 10 before filing the petition.

“I am required by law to observe the principle of exhaustion of administrative remedies. This means that first I have to go to the COA, and request for a study and report on the issue of constitutionality.  If the COA opinion differs from mine, only then will I be allowed to file a court case.  If not, the court will dismiss my petition,” she said.

Santiago appeared Wednesday morning as guest at an early-morning talk show on ABS-CBN.

During the televised interview, Santiago derided her political enemy, Enrile, for refusing to debate with her on the issue of whether he has the power to give Christmas gifts of some P2 million to all senators, except Santiago, Antonio Trillanes, Pia and Alan Cayetano.

She added: “The problem with Enrile is that he has outlived himself.  Remember, he is 89 years old.  He continues to think that it is still martial law, and that he can bully everybody.”

Santiago said that when she was Quezon City RTC judge, she decided a case against Enrile for jailing Lino Brocka and other showbiz personalities, as well as UP and Ateneo students, whose only crime was staging a street demonstration against martial law excesses.

Enrile’s attack dog

Santiago said that one of Enrile’s attack dogs is not a lawyer, but is pretending to be one, and that is why that senator keeps on calling on Santiago to shut up.

“He does not even have a clue about the principle of exhaustion of administrative remedies.  He was involved in a court case, and he turned tail and became a fugitive from justice, which is criminal behavior.  That is what you get when a layman filled with hubris pretends to be a lawyer.  Pilit nakikisawsaw,” she said.

The senator added that this particular Enrile defender is calling on her to keep silent.  She countered: “If that senator wants to participate in the conspiracy of silence, he can, but he should respect my freedom of expression and the public’s right to know under the Constitution.  If a dog barks at midnight, the homeowner should go out and search for the intruder, instead of beating the dog,” she said.

Disappointed with COA chair

Santiago said that she felt “very disappointed and frustrated” at the TV statement of COA chair Ma. Gracia Pulido-Tan,  who was reportedly said that heads of agencies have absolute discretion over the use of savings.

Santiago accused her enemies of ignorance about her personal crusade against irresponsible use of Senate funds.

“They are talking from a position of total ignorance.  When I was first elected senator in 1995, I returned my savings at yearend to the Senate.  The next year, I refused to get my so-called additional pork barrel, on the ground that it had no legal basis.  This was featured on the front page story of a prominent daily.  Sometime later, I asked the Senate budget director to give me a rundown of the total income of every senator.  The Senate President at that time issued a ban on the release of Senate finance documents, even to senators like myself,” she said.

Santiago said that her enemies are spreading disinformation that she should shut up, because she received Senate savings on past occasions.

Santiago said that the “additional MOOE” at yearend is phony, because in effect, the office closes at the end of the year and therefore there is no more need for additional office expenses.

Santiago emphasized that Enrile himself had called the Senate funds that he gave away as “gifts and not bribes.”

The TV anchor told Santiago that Enrile has called on the senator to resign and report for work at the International Criminal Court, where she has been elected as the first Filipino judge.

Santiago faced the camera, pointed her forefinger, and with a glare said: “Hey, I address this to my political enemy: Since you are a lawyer, read the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.  A newly-elected judge is required to wait, until a retired judge has finished all his cases.  That is why neither the ICC nor I know when I will be called for duty.  This is a non-issue, but it is being used against me because he just wants to get rid of me,” she said.

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