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MANILA, Philippines - Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago uses the third and fourth floor of her own building in Quezon City as satellite office and pays P840,000 in annual rent using Senate funds, said Senator Panfilo Lacson on Sunday, noting that this violates the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
InterAksyon.com tried to get Santiago’s side. Tom Tolibas, Santiago’s media officer, texted back: "Unavailable pa rin po for interview. Sorry." Santiago has been on medical leave for hypertension and chronic bone marrow disorder since last week, Jan. 21, after she ranted against the disparity in the “Christmas bonus” given by Senate President Juan Ponce-Enrile to the senators.
“The annual rent is P840,000 and the lease contract is from 2010 to 2014, and under the contract, the space is being used as satellite office of a senator, and the lessor who signed the contract was the spouse of the senator,” Lacson said.
Santiago’s office is inside the Narsan Building, which is owned by the senator and her husband, former Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Narciso “Jun” Santiago, Lacson said, citing documents which indicate that the lessor and the lessee is a staff member of Santiago.
He said he also has information that Senate funds are being used for repairs and renovations of the Santiagos’ building.
“This is a clear violation of Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act because the beneficial lessee and lessor is one and the same person. He is a staff of the senator, and he is also a staff of the corporation (who owns the building) or an official of the corporation. Di ba malinaw na graft iyon (Isn’t that clearly graft)?” Lacson explained.
“Sino ang tatanggi? Kasi ikaw ang gagamit at ikaw din ang mag-de-decide kung ano ang uupahan mo. Eh ang dami naman mauupahan bakit sariling building mo pa? Malinaw ang paglabag sa (Who will deny this? The one who uses the space is also the same person who rents out the space. Of all the buildings where you can rent, why in your own building? This is a clear violation of) Section 3h of RA 3019, the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act,” Lacson further explained.
But Lacson said he is only waiting for Santiago’s health to improve before filing the graft case against Santiago.
“Huwag na lamang muna, palipasan na lamang muna natin (I don’t think it’s time, let’s let it pass), and let’s move forward so we can go to the positive end phase of these controversies,” he said.
Lacson said he will definitely file the proper case before the Office of the Ombudsman as Senate funds were misused.
“We are not in a hurry…because the contract is still in force. But definitely, we will file the case - to have a conclusion,” he said.
Lacson said anyone, regardless of whether he’s Senate president or Senate majority leader, who has committed crimes, in the misuse of government funds, must answer for them.
‘Not an excuse’
Lacson also dismissed the possible excuse that Santiago is renting space in her own building in order to save. He said this is not allowed.
“The law does not say so, but the law says if you have influence and used that influence to have pecuniary interest, that is a clear graft,” Lacson said.