Miriam wants to take Enrile to court but…
MANILA, Philippines – Challenge accepted.
Sen Miriam Defensor Santiago said she is willing to accept Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile’s challenge for his critics to take him to court over his decision not to give them additional funds from Senate savings.
Before a lecture at the Centro Escolar University on Friday, January 11, Santiago said she wanted to file a case before the Supreme Court to question the constitutionality of Enrile’s move.
The senator, though, said she might be called for duty at the International Criminal Court (ICC) any time. Santiago was elected as a judge at The Hague-based court last December 2011. She has said she is only waiting for the ICC to call her to duty.
Instead, Santiago called on other parties to challenge Enrile in court.
“The issue of using savings for distribution to high officials at yearend deserves to be given full study by the Supreme Court. I hope that a lawyers’ group would file such a petition under the principle of transparency,” Santiago said.
In a radio interview Thursday, January 10, Enrile dared critics to take him to court if he violated the law in selectively giving “further additional” Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE).
Enrile only gave Santiago, and Senators Alan Peter Cayetano, Pia Cayetano and Antonio Trillanes IV the first tranche of the MOOE worth P600,000 each in November, and a Christmas cash gift of P250,000 each. The 18 other senators though got the second tranche of P1.6 million each in December.
“Kung inaakala ng kung sinuman na ako ay lumabag sa batas, kasuhan nila ako. I will be very happy para maipakita ko naman ang kagaguhan ko at kagalingan ko sa husgado,” Enrile said. (If anyone thinks I violated the law, then they should sue me. I will be very happy to show my stupidity or brilliance in court.)
Santiago has questioned the constitutionality of Enrile’s decision. She said while the Constitution gives high officials discretion over their offices’ funds, the Commission on Audit (COA) should further define the meaning of “savings” to avoid abuse.
The Ilonggo senator wrote the COA to release officials’ full income and to define “public purposes” for which discretionary funds may be used.
Despite Santiago’s statements, the COA has said that it is within Enrile’s authority to decide how to use the Senate savings.
‘Stop vulgar terms of a fishwife’
Before her lecture, Santiago lamented what she called personal attacks from Enrile.
“I will not exchange personal insults with him because what is at issue is a paramount constitutional question,” she said in a press conference.
“He should answer me in legal terms, not in vulgar terms of a fishwife.”
Santiago was referring to Enrile’s media statements following the release of the Philippine Daily Inquirer report which exposed Enrile’s distribution of the MOOE.
In his interviews, Enrile for instance alluded to Santiago and said she should not teach him about the legality of his action.
“Alam ko yun at hindi na kailangang ituturo ng isang taong halos medyo bumagsak sa bar examination. Alam ko yun eh. Wala akong nilabag na batas,” Enrile said. (I know that and it need not be taught by someone who almost failed the bar examination. I know that. I did not violate any law.)
The issue on the Senate savings further deepens the animosity between the two senior senators. Last year, the two admitted that they have had a long-running tensions dating from the time Enrile was Justice Secretary. Santiago had described their relations as “ice-cold.”
On the Senate floor, they clashed over the Reproductive Health and sin tax reform laws. Yet the rift has gotten even more personal, with two returning each other’s Christmas gifts.
Santiago has warned of a Malacañang-backed plot to unseat Enrile as Senate President.
She said his opposition to the two administration measures, and position as leader of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) are possible grounds for an impending Senate coup.
Enrile though has repeatedly said he is ready to step down if his colleagues muster the numbers to choose a new leader. – Rappler.com