• Senate minority turns down additional P20-M fund


    MEMBERS of the Senate minority have decided not to accept the P20 million additional budget of senators, in the guise of the budget for oversight committees, being offered by the Senate leadership as it insisted for a more meaningful reform on the Senate expenses.

    In a statement signed by the six members of the Senate minority bloc headed by Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, the group said that current Senate leadership fell short in showing the public that the chamber is putting taxpayers’ money into better and more efficient use by introducing changes on operations.

    The minority senators were referring to the so-called rationalization of the budgets of oversight committees—adopted by members of the majority led by Senate President Franklin Drilon—to heed the public’s concern over the large budgetary outlay for existing oversight committees of the Senate.

    Under the new system approved in a caucus, a uniform P20 million annual allocation will be given to each 24 senators on top of the regular budgets for their offices and regular committee budgets.

    The new system will also result in P32.4-million savings, which will be returned to the national treasury.

    The minority bloc however voted against it claiming that the supposed rationalization of oversight committee budgets is actually an “equalization” measure—it subtracts from those senators whose current oversight committee budgets are higher than P20 million and adds to those with a budget lower than P20 million.

    “If we are to assume that the senators uniformly needs P20 million annually to carry out his or her committees’ tasks regardless whether it is for the regular legislative or for oversight (functions), then we must call a spade a spade and tell the people that we are actually increasing our operational budgets by P20 million annually,” the minority said in statement.

    The minority meanwhile supports the Senate leadership’s move to urgently review, revise and repeal, if needed, laws and resolutions passed by congress providing for the creation of oversight committees based on need, importance, function and actual performance.

    There are currently 39 oversight committees that were created either by a law or a resolution, but many of the panels have not been active over the years nor records and reports about its achievements.

    A real rationalization, the minority bloc said, will result in more savings for the people than the P32.4 million that “equalization” measure expects to generate.

    The equalization system will also result in sweeping abolition of staff position which the Senate leadership should also consider.

    “Should we not also be mindful to accord fair and just treatment to those staff and personnel who have actually and dutifully been rendering their services and performing their jobs under these committees?” the minority asked.

    Last week, around 100 employees working as staff of oversight committees have been terminated as a result of the rationalization of oversight committees that took effect last August 1.

    Drilon in a memorandum issued last August 13 informed all employees of oversight committees that they will continue to serve only until August 15, 2013 unless their employment is approved by the chair of the committee that hired them.

    Prior to the issuance of the memorandum affected employees, some of them had been working in the committee for 15 years, wrote a letter to the Senate President appealing that they be allowed to continue their services until December 31.


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