Senate minority leader Alan Peter Cayetano pushed for an independent auditing firm to step in the Commission on Audit (COA) stead in scrutinizing the liquidation and certification of funds in the Senate.
“If we have a private auditing firm do the accounting there will be no shadow of doubt. COA’s budget also comes from us so others might have a perception that they are beholden to us. An independent firm won’t risk ruining their name to appease a senator,” he said.
The senator gave this suggestion in light of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile’s distribution of P1.6 million to 18 senators and P250,000 to the remaining four including the minority leader under the guise of additional maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) funds.
The action has opened the question on whether or not such a disbursement from the Senate President’s discretionary funds is legal.
“It may be from his office’s savings. But when you have savings from your office, you have to return it. You can’t give it away,” he said.
He explained that this was the reason why he followed Sen. Koko Pimentel’s lead and had his finance officer embargo the check for P250,000.
He also noted that this check, while printed on an official Senate check, had no accompanying documents unlike the additional MOOE of P1.3 million given to senators prior to this incident.
“The irony here is that the P1.3 million might be more legal than the P250,000 simply because it has accompanying documentation,” he said.
The minority leader pointed out that this question is hard to answer given that while COA chairperson Grace Pulido-Tan has said that realignment is legal, the fact still remains that COA has dealt with no other similar cases.
“It’s true that you can realign. But you cannot use the savings of your office as any kind of gift. You can realign it then give it for a specific public purpose. You have to certify it for that purpose with the accompanying documents. What Sen. Enrile did is the first time I’ve ever encountered such a thing done,” he said.
Cayetano stressed that the only way to end this debate quickly and effectively is to have a private auditing firm step in and open the Senate books in the same way they’ve asked the oil companies, former Chief Justice Corona and General Garcia to do in past Senate investigations.
“We have so many vital pieces of legislation left to contend with. So my suggestion is we get a private auditing firm, tell the finance officer to open the books and let the public see through the media what this audit yields,” he said.
“We have asked so many people we’ve investigated to open their books and accounts. It’s time we lead by example and do the same,” he added.