[PHOTO -Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile]

MANILA, JANUARY 16, 2012 (INTER-AKSYON) InterAksyon.com The online news portal of TV5 - By: Karl John C. Reyes, InterAksyon.com - Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile on Sunday said Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago’s tirades are not destroying him but the Senate as an institution.

He asked her to be fair with the senators who received bigger amounts of Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE), as she did before. Also on Sunday, Sen. Panfilo Lacson assailed Santiago's inconsistencies and double standard of morality, saying she was most unfair in painting her colleagues like crooks.

“Panawagan ko (My call), be fair to the Senate, and to the other senators. Handa naman akong maparusahan kung may kasalanan ako. At kung may ebidensiya siya, magsampa ka doon sa may (I am ready to be punished if I have done wrong. If there is evidence, file a case before where there’s a) referee, sa Department of Justice (DOJ), sa Office of the Ombudsman, sa International Criminal Court o sa Sandiganbayan,” Enrile said.

Enrile was reacting to Santiago’s confirmation that she received – and returned – P250,000 in MOOE, as against the P1.6 million received by 18 other senators. Siblings Alan Peter and Pia Cayetano and Antonio Trillanes IV received the same smaller amount.

“Pinaganda natin ang imahe ng Senado. Ngayon nung hindi siya nabigyan ng MOOE noong Disyembre, idadamay na nya ang ibang senador. Okey lamang sana kung may katotohanan na may nagwawaldas ng pera (We are trying to refurbish the image of the Senate. Now that she did not receive an MOOE last December, she is tainting the other senators. It’s OK if there’s truth to her allegation that public money is being misspent),” Enrile lamented.

The Senate president said that Santiago never complained before, when she was given MOOE from 2004 up to 2011 - a practice of all other Senate presidents.

“Wala siyang kibo eh. Kailan ka naging moral noong Disyembre 2012 dahil hindi ka nakatanggap ng MOOE (She did not speak up before. She became moral in December 2012 when she did not receive the MOOE anymore),” he said.

He dared Santiago to file a case if she has evidence of misconduct or wrongdoing.

Enrile also challenged Santiago to make public all her personal assets including all expenses incurred during her term in the Senate. He offered to make the same disclosures.

“Kung gusto niya lahat ng ari-arian namin ilantad namin. Ewan ko some people are saying na may houses sa Tagaytay, parang may Malacanang sa Tagaytay, kung totoo iyon. Ewan ko kung si Miriam ang tinutukoy nila na may malaking bahay sa Tagaytay na itinatawag sa aking radio program, at hindi ko na papatulan at paimbestigahan iyon"

"(If she wants, let’s both make public all our assets. I don’t know but some people are saying she has houses in Tagaytay, like a Malacanang in Tagaytay. I don’t know if these are true. I don’t know if they are referring to Miriam when they say there’s a big house in Tagaytay. People are telling me these through my radio program. I won’t have it investigated),” Enrile said.

“Huwag naman mag-aakusa nang walang batayan dahil hindi nakatanggap ka ng MOOE noong (Don’t accuse without basis because you did not receive MOOE last) December,” he added.

Enrile also denied that he is using the conviction former Chief Justice Renato Corona to bargain against his ouster as Senate president.

“That is not true, convicting Corona is a collective effort of Congress, not by me alone,” he said.

Ping blasts Miriam’s ‘double standard of morality’

Also on Sunday, Senator Panfilo Lacson assailed what he described as Senator Santiago’s inconsistencies and double standard of morality.

“The question here is, why did they keep quiet when they received funds in November. If her standards of morality are really high, they should question the P600,000 release in November, and they should return it. They should say, this is immoral and we are returning it because this comes from the savings of former senator Noynoy Aquino who became president,” Lacson said, speaking mostly in Filipino.

Lacson also dismissed Santiago’s contention that the fund releases were unconstitutional and unconscionable since the money came from savings, and should revert to the National Treasury.

“Under the law, there is no irregularity in the distribution but there could be irregularity in how it is used. Even the COA chair had spoken [and said] there was nothing wrong because there are provisions in the General Appropriations Act of 2012 that [in] all constitutional offices as well as the Senate and the House of the Representatives, the heads of those offices have the authority to realign or to augment their budgets from savings. The only illegal thing here is [if] there was no item in the GAA and one puts a budget for it,” Lacson explained.

Lacson expressed amazement over the inconsistencies of Santiago’s level of morality when she did not return all other “additional MOOE” given to her office not only in November, when she accepted P600,000, but also from the time she was elected as senator.

“If something was right yesterday, how can it be wrong today?” he asked.

“Why did she not return the P600,000. The excuse I heard is that then [in November], all senators received equal sums of P600,000.

What’s the difference there; that was also additional [MOOE coming from the] savings from the office of [then senator] Noynoy. Why did she not return that amount then; now she returns the P250,000 just because she did not get P1.6 million,” he added.

Lacson said that during the time of former Senator Noli De Castro who was elected vice president, savings from his office were used as additional MOOE for other individual senators, adding this is a common practice in the Senate and is allowed by COA.

“When you return the P250,000, you make us all appear like crooks. But when she didn’t return the P600,000 in November, didn’t that make her a crook too? And in previous years as well. Following her logic, could it be she was not a crook only in December because she returned money?” Lacson said.

Lacson also dismissed Santiago’s allegation that the P1.6 million distributed to 18 senators were bribes in exchange for keeping Enrile as Senate president.

“What does she think of us? We’re all shameless people and she’s the only decent person in the chamber. When you cast aspersions on the integrity of people, that’s foul,” he lamented.

Lacson also urged media to ask for documents from individual senators on their expenses regarding the MOOE. “You can do that, you can ask all senators for the documents on how they spent their individual MOOE, let’s see who will not release documents.”

“Let us start with Miriam, because she made the challenge first. The one claiming to have a moral ascendancy should set the example and report----these are all my transactions in the Senate, this is what I spend monthly,” Lacson said. “And I hope all senators will follow suit.”

Lacson also challenged Santiago to upload on the Internet all her expenses in her office and committee memberships, including the Commission on Appointments (CA).

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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