After fund issue, Trillanes, Cayetano staff recalled

(Updated 4:16 p.m.) DAVAO CITY — After being deprived of additional funds, Senate Minority Floor Leader Alan Peter Cayetano on Wednesday bared that some of his and Senator Antonio Trillanes IV's staff are being recalled by the Senate allegedly without explanation. "We received a memo that ang staff namin ni Sen. Trillanes that belong to the [Senate] secretariat are being recalled, walang reason na nakalagay," Cayetano told reporters at the sidelines of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines' (IBP) Convention here. The memo, which Cayetano said was sent last week, seeks to recall two of his staff and two of Trillanes' staff.

In a text message to GMA News Online, Sen. Antonio Trillanes confirmed that two of his staff were being recalled. In a statement, Enrile said he had the staff recalled because the assignments for their detail had expired already and it was "only proper that these high-salaried personnel should be sent back to and be utilized by their respective mother units." "Those two employees detailed to the office of Senator Alan Cayetano are actually from the Blue Ribbon Office, and those two employees detailed to the office of Senator Trillanes are from the Senate Economic Planning Office and the Office of the Senate Secretary," he said. Enrile said he gave the instruction to the Office of the Senate Secretary as early as December 6, 2012, which was even before news of the additional funds broke out.

"The Office of the Senate Secretary signed and issued such recall order last 3 January 2013, and effective only yesterday, 15th of January," he said.

He also said that when these employees were recalled, two other Senate secretariat employees remained with Cayetano and one remained with Trillanes. Suspicious timing Cayetano, however, said the timing of the recall was suspicious since he and Trillanes had recently criticized Enrile for giving additional operating expenses to all senators except his perceived foes. "Sa amin lang dalawa ni Sen. Trillanes samantalang maraming naka-detail na iba't-ibang staff sa buong Senate sa iba't-ibang senators. So again, what's unique about me and Sen. Trillanes?" he said. Cayetano and Trillanes are both members of the minority, which Enrile cited as the reason why they weren't given additional funds. Enrile also said the two have enough funding for their committees, which they weren't even supposed to head as members of the minority. Cayetano, however, asked why Sen. Joker Arroyo was given the same funds like the majority. "Is it because mas mabait sa kanya (Enrile) si Sen. Arroyo? Is it because they see eye to eye on many more issues than us?" he asked. In the same manner, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, a member of the majority, was among those who weren't given the second tranche of the additional operating funds. Enrile, who had been a subject of several coup rumors in the Senate last year, has accused Santiago of pretending to be a member of the majority. Cayetano likened what Enrile did to “martial law” and to the “type of tactic” allegedly practiced by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who was accused of withholding the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), or pork barrel, of her critics in Congress. "If I was Senate president pupuntulan ko ba siya ng pondo if I don't agree with her? That's the type of Senate we are turning into, that's why I said it's a martial law GMA (Arroyo's initials)-Enrile type of tactic that I hope the majority puts a stop to," Cayetano said. "We're throwing to them (majority) the question because the minority cannot outvote the majority but the majority whether behind closed doors or whether in session can talk to the Senate president and say hindi pwedeng ganyan...hindi ka pwede mamili eto gusto mo eto gusto kung hindi," he added. Cayetano also said that he wishes to "dispel" any notion that the Senate president has complete authority over all Senate funds. "Sen. Enrile cannot do it by himself even if he is Senate president but if the majority allows him to do it, bahala sila that's the kind of Senate they want but in the past it's always been pantay-pantay lahat ng senators regardless kung ano ang position nila that is changing now," he added. Santiago has earlier wrote to the Commission on Audit (COA) asking for an audit of the Senate funds. Cayetano, however, said the audit should be conducted by an independent firm. "Althought I believe in the chair of the COA and the independence of the COA, kung senador o COA ang mag-imbestiga, siyempre may influence at may subjectivity pero 'yung private firm reputation nila is on the line," he said. Enrile has said that he welcomes any audit. — KBK, GMA News

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