Admission coming straight from the horse’s mouth

 

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago

I am reprinting here an article written on Aug. 28, 2013 by Ms. Angela Casauay of Rappler.com, a social news network.

The article, which I consider a primer that makes for a comprehensive and reprehensible political scandal, talks about the high profile PDAF or pork barrel scam that is rocking both houses of Congress today and the reason for the successful people march and assemblage, but the gist of the story really is about the admission of how much senators of the realm make coming straight from the horse’s mouth.

The reason why I am reprinting this in toto is because I don’t want to take any credit away from Ms. Casauay. The fact that the one making the admission (confession?) is no other than the fiery Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago herself makes it all the more credible, yet the truth is disgusting and woeful, by any stretch of the imagination.

One should not wonder anymore, like what I had been saying all these times, that if running for congressman and senator is luring actors, actresses and boxing great, and political dynasties are shaping up, it is because these lofty positions are the antithesis of going bankrupt.

The following is Ms. Casauay’s article:

Senators earn from P600k to P5M a month

Under the salary standardization law, a senator receives a salary of P90,000 a month. But in reality, Sen Miriam Defensor Santiago claims, lawmakers receive between P600,000 to P5 million monthly — depending on the positions they hold.

And after the social media-organized protest to abolish the pork barrel on Monday, August 26, the senator believes it is time for Congress to make public the details on their incomes, and pass the Freedom of Information bill.

Santiago said Congress has devised a “labyrinth method” on providing lawmakers with incomes “very much more than their official salaries.”

“It’s like the ancient Japanese capital cities which were designed with labyrinthine roads to prevent the enemy from penetrating the ultimate castle of the shogun,” Santiago said during her keynote speech at the 30th annual convention of the Philippine Blood Coordinating Council on Wednesday, August 28.

How does the “labyrinth” system work?

In the Senate, Santiago said, her colleagues receive extra income for chairing oversight committees or becoming a member of the Commission on Appointments.

For fiscal year 2013, each oversight committee has a budget of between P5 million to P37 million a year.

Those who get elected to the Senate get even bigger “discretionary funds” amounting to between P1.5 million to P2.3 million per month, Santiago added.

“If we add up all these sources of income, a senator could be making P4 million to P 5 million monthly. And this does not include a kickback of 10% to 50% from the pork barrel,” Santiago said.

She provided the following computation of senators’ total approximate monthly incomes

Salary

P90,000

If chair of two oversight committees

P70,000

As member of 7 oversight committees

P210,000

As member of Commission on Appointments

P200,000

Approximate Total Monthly Income

P570,000

Budget for Office of the Senator

P1,522,240 to P2,302,425

Budget for the Permanent Committee

P1,228,995 to P2,295,732

Approximate Total Monthly Discretionary Funds

P2,751,235 to P4,598,157

 

A 2011 Commission on Audit (COA) report found that the following senators received additional funds for being elected as officials:

  • Juan Ponce-Enrile, as Senate President – P71.7M
  • Jinggoy Estrada, as Senate Pro Tempore – P9.3M
  • Tito Sotto, as Majority Floor Leader – P9.3M
  • Alan Peter Cayetano, as Minority Floor Leader – P10.2M

Meanwhile, a subsequent special COA report on the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) found that lawmakers channeled at least P6.1 billion worth of funds to bogus nongovernment organizations allegedly operated by Janet Lim-Napoles, now considered a fugitive.

President Benigno Aquino III announced a P10-M reward for the arrest of Napoles, who has been missing for about two weeks now.

Amid calls to scrap the pork barrel system, the President earlier announced he was abolishing the PDAF and installing a new scheme. The PDAF is a lump sum fund in the national budget. Each senator receives P200 million worth of PDAF a year, while counterparts in the House of Representatives receive P70 million each.

Following Monday’s protests, Santiago said netizens should now push for the passage of the FOI.

“It is a natural consequence of the People’s March last Monday that netizens should now call for passage by Congress of the Philippines Freedom of Information Act (FOIA),” Santiago said.

The Philippines can follow the example of the United States’ FOI law, according to Santiago. In the US, government agencies are required to publish online documents of high public interest, ready for download by anyone interested.

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