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By Dionesio Grava

It is fine that Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago had kept alive the issue of excessive senatorial perks and other abuses these legislators had committed against the taxpayers. It is necessary that all culprits who betray the trust of citizens should be shamed in public. Considering that the hides of our kind of national leaders have grown too thick to be adversely affected by the usual brand of criticisms, the issue should be fanned continuously if only to prompt outrage on everyone who has the best interest of the country and countrymen in mind.

Using a 2011 Commission on Audit report as reference, the lady senator said that Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, Pro-tempore Jinggoy Estrada, Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III and Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano “enjoyed a premium of between 21 percent and 166 percent over the average P43 million in ‘personal income’ received annually by regular senators.”

The report says that all the senators, including Santiago, receive annual gross salary of some P1 million each. But on the average, a senator receives P2.5 million more annually as a member of seven oversight committees. Senate President Enrile also controlled 50 percent of the Senate’s budget. The other top Senate officers likewise had the biggest spending budgets among the 23 senators. Enrile had a total of P118 million, Estrada with P62 million, Sotto with P56 million and Cayetano with P55 million.

Not satisfied with having devoured much needed public funds, these crocodiles further get P50,000 each per month by their memberships in regular committees, oversight committees and the Commission on Appointment. Then there’s the amount known as ‘additional MOOE’ (maintenance and other operating expenses) that becomes the personal pork barrel of the Senate President. And when a senator leaves office his office allocation becomes additional MOOE, too, said Santiago.

As if this “shocker” of a report about our senators’ plunderings is not terrible enough for Juan Dela Cruz, there’s this other revelation about “the estimated P10-billion scam involving the pork barrel funds of lawmakers ending up in dummy nongovernment organizations (NGO) for purported ghost projects.” Ramon Tulfo indicated in his Inquirer column that many more lawmakers may have been involved than the ones earlier published.

“The amount stolen from the government through the scheme could exceed P10 billion,” wrote Tulfo. Talagang subrang sakim at mga kapalmuks ang mga senador na ito. Meanwhile, the common man suffers in utmost poverty and hardships. Just a hint of the damage these senators have wrought on our beloved Philippines: The AFP is so dismally under equipped such that Rep. Walden Bello threatened, now hear this, that Filipinos will respond “with bolder civil-political actions” in the light of China’s bullying and nibbling at our territories. Chinese high tech armaments versus protesters’ placards! Imagine that? — Dionesio C. Grava

Image Source: Thinking-Class-of-the-Philippines Facebook Page

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