Thursday, July 18, 2024

Miriam proposes gov?t website containing salaries of lawmakers

In the wake of massive corruption among lawmakers exposed by the pork barrel scam, Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago has proposed the creation of a government-owned website that will provide the salaries and other renumerations of legislators.

Defensor Santiago

Santiago suggested that a government website should make available information on the range of income that a senator or representative makes monthly, together with a specification of all discretionary funds at his or her disposal.

Santiago made the announcement last Wednesday, August 28, during her keynote speech at the 30th annual convention of the Philippine Blood Coordinating Council, an organization created by law.

For a start, the feisty solon said she will file a resolution expressing the sense of the Senate that the Senate website should provide information on the total approximate monthly income of every senator, which she places at some P600,000, or over half a million pesos.

Santiago said that the People’s March at the Luneta last Monday calling for abolition of the pork barrel should logically continue into a demand for Internet information on the total monthly income of every individual public officer, starting with the highest ranking, including the senators.

In particular, the senator called for a program similar to the Open Government Initiative started in 2009 by the Obama administration.

“Under the initiative, the US government developed a website called Data.gov that makes government data available to everyone,” the senator said.

More specifically, Santiago called for the creation of a government dashboard that would enable the public to track pork barrel projects as long as they continue, and to track the discretionary funds of every public official.

The senator said that a provision for a government dashboard should be part of the proposed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

She said that under the FOIA, agencies should be entitled to charge reasonable fees for research time and duplication costs.

But she also proposed that requests from media representatives, as well as from educational and non-commercial scientific institutions, should be granted free for the first two hours of search time and the first 100 pages.

In her speech, Santiago listed nine exemptions that will grant government agencies the discretion to deny a request for information.

She also called for an independent depository for documents obtained under the FOIA, to be named as the National Security Archives.

Santiago said that a senator’s recorded salary of P 90,000 a month under the Salary Standardization Act is misleading, because a senator receives income from other Senate funds.

Among the sources of extra income is chairmanship of an oversight committee, or membership in the Commission on Appointments.

And there is more, she said. If the senator is elected as one of the Senate officials, that senator gets even much more than his colleagues.

The 2011 COA report said that in addition to the personal income of a senator, the following officials received much more just being officers of the Senate: Enrile, as Senate President – P 71.7M; Estrada, as Senate Pro Tempore – P 9.3M; Sotto, as Majority Floor Leader – P9.3M; and Cayetano, as Minority Floor Leader – P 10.2M.

But she added that the discretionary funds under the control of a senator could range from P 2.7M to P 4.5M

“If we add up all these sources of income, a senator could be making P 4M to P 5M monthly. And this does not include a kickback of 10 percent to 50 percent from the pork barrel,” Santiago said.

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