MANILA (Mabuhay) – Millions of pesos being allocated to Senate oversight committees are not ending up in senators’ pockets, Senate leaders said Monday.
In a radio interview, Senate President Franklin Drilon said the annual budget for each of the chamber’s 24 oversight committees are all accounted for.
“I can tell you, nagko-comply ang lahat ng mga senador. In fact, hirap na hirap mag-liquidate ng mga budget ng bawat komite,” Drilon said told radio dzRH.
He added that oversight committees are required to present receipts and certifications for all their fund releases.
A Philippine Star report published earlier in the day said the Commission on Audit (COA) recently sent a memorandum reminding senators on the proper use of funds for oversight committees.
Oversight committees are created to check the implementation of specific laws. Some existing oversight panels include those tasked to monitor the Clean Air Act, the Overseas Voting Act and the Anti-Money Laundering Law.
The reported COA memorandum came out amid accusations that Senators Ramon Bong Revilla Jr., Juan Ponce Enrile and Jinggoy Estrada pocketed millions in their pork barrel funds. The three lawmakers have repeatedly denied these allegations.
In a separate statement, Senate secretary Oscar Yabes said that although he has not yet seen the COA memorandum, the issues being raised on the budget of oversight panels “have been addressed already.”
Yabes added that funds for these committees go to salaries of staff members and consultants, and not to the pockets of senators who chair the panels.
“The Senate is not exempt from government auditing procedures. The funds entrusted to us faithfully undergo liquidation processes and the expenses are supported by receipts and other documents evidencing the disbursements,” he said.
Last year, the Senate leadership reduced the number of standing oversight committees from 35 to 24. Each panel was also allocated a uniform budget of P20 million.
The Senate minority bloc opposed this move by Drilon’s leadership, saying it only subtracted funds from some oversight committees, and increased the allocations for others. (MNS)