Rumble in Manila: Miriam Santiago vs Enrile and Lacson

[Note: Reaction to March 16, Philippine Daily Inquirer story entitled “Santiago attacks Enrile, Lacson anew”]

Without a shadow of a doubt, there is much to be desired in Santiago’s conduct and frame of mind as a senator and statesman with her choice of gutter or foul language, ongoing personal attacks on fellow senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Ping Lacson and her taunts of a fistfight or a shootout.

Whether here in Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan where lawmakers punch each other during legislative sessions or in any other developing or developed country around the world, it is very hard to find a lawmaker, like Santiago, who openly challenges opponents to a fistfight or shootout.

But despite Santiago’s obvious failings, there is a silver lining in the crazy things that she’s been doing.

And this is to bring out into the open very important problematic issues in our Congress, both in the Senate and in the House of Representatives, that need to be resolved — for the benefit of all taxpayers.

Enrile’s unilateral decision to grant very generous but questionable year-end bonuses to select senators — who are not his opponents like Santiago — and Senate staff from Senate savings raises a number of vital and fundamental issues — that all Pinoys should be concerned about.

Is Enrile and the senator beneficiaries of his year-end bonus grant responsible in the use of taxpayers’ money?

If they’re not responsible enough, how can the public continue to trust the Senate collectively?

Aside from the apparent misuse of Senate savings, is the combined P20 billion plus pork barrel for all members of the Senate and House of Representatives being used responsibly for the benefit of Pinoys in general?

Is the use by each member being properly accounted for with the Commission on Audi and is the latter strictly auditing the use of these funds, like what it does with all other government agencies?

Or is the use of these funds loosely audited now by COA and are most pork barrel funds going to the pockets of congressmen and senators in the form of kickbacks for awarded infrastructure projects and into the pockets of their relatives and friends, scores of whom may be ghost employees?

Why should Congress members be given, in the first place, a combined P20 billion plus every year for all sort of infrastructure projects when their principal mandate is to formulate and enact laws? And not to get involved in infrastructure developments?

Why not give these funds to different departments, vested with the expertise and experience to vet or evaluate proposed projects and approve proposals based on their merits — not on their connections to sponsoring Congress members?

Why can’t the pork barrel taken away entirely from Congress members? Why perpetuate this system which many people know is a major source of institutional corruption among Congress members due mainly to loose financial controls?

If PNoy is really serious in eradicating graft and corruption in government, he should
also take the bold step and decision in removing the pork barrel from Congress
and using its funds to ease the sufferings of the poorest of the poor.

Ultimate question: Is PNoy bold and enlightened enough to do this course of action?

Excerpt of PDI story: Santiago attacks Enrile, Lacson anew
March 16, Philippine Daily Inquirer
Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago on Friday attacked anew her political opponents, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, over Senate finances.
“Kung hindi lang matanda ’yan, suntukin ko ’yan ngayon [If he weren’t that old, I’d hit him now],” Santiago said in her speech at the annual convention of the Association of Nursing Service Administrators of the Philippines held at the Manila Hotel.
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