SOME senators admitted Tuesday they have relatives who work for them as consultants, but said there was no prohibition against the practice.
Neophyte senators Juan Edgardo Angara, Paolo Benigno Aquino IV and JV Ejercito told The Standard that like Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, they too had hired relatives as consultants.
Angara said his sister who was a graduate of the London School of Economics is among his consultants. He said she was qualified to do the job he assigned her, but declined to say what this was.
“She’s a working consultant,” said Angara, adding that there are functions of some consultants whose jobs cannot be revealed for reasons of confidentiality.
“But there’s nothing wrong in getting relatives for consultancy services,” he added.
Aquino said he also has a relative in his pool of consultants, but said he could not remember exactly how they were related.
“I think it’s a second or third degree relation,” said the senator, who is a cousin of President Benigno Aquino III.
Ejercito said he too had a relative among his consultants, but said he was no longer working for him.
Still, he said, there was nothing wrong about employing a relative to work as a consultant as long as the work is being done.
But the three senators said a senator should not put his household help on the Senate payroll, as Trillanes has been accused of doing.
In a separate interview, the media relations officer of Senator Aquilino Pimentel said his sister Gwen, a lawyer, was his long-time chief-of-staff before her appointment as human rights commissioner in July.
Trillanes on Tuesday insisted he never received a notice of disallowance from the Commission on Audit for any of his 63 consultants—the highest number among all the senators.
Asked if it was true that he had more than 60 consultants, Trillanes said he was not aware of the number, but said “they’re many.”
Trillanes also attacked the spokesman of Vice President Jejomar Binay, Rico Quicho, for saying one of his consultants was his household help, receiving P3,500 a month.
“That Mr. Quicho, when he talked about ‘kasambahay,’ as if he has gone to our house. Did he see him washing the dish? So what’s this? That guy is trying to be popular at my expense. I won’t allow that,” Trillanes said.
He insisted that many of is consultants were confidential agents.
Trillanes also made a veiled threat to have one of them follow Quicho so that he could inform the senator when he arrives at home and when he leaves the house.
“I can give that mission just to prove a point,” Trillanes said.
In that kind of menial work, the consultant doesn’t need a PhD or a law degree, Trillanes said.
“Here, our idea of consultant is always high. That’s not always the case. That’s clear, what kind of job are we gonna give them in relation to our job here. So that’s it. He will just stand there and tell us what time Attorney Quicho leaves, what’s his car, where does he pass.... they can’t understand this because they had never done things like this,” Trillanes said.
Quicho on Tuesday said Trillanes was hiding behind the excuse of confidentiality and Senate President Franklin Drilon.
“He just needs to be transparent and honest,” Quicho said.
“Instead of answering the issue of his consultants, Trillanes angrily faces the media and blamed the Office of the Vice President,” Quicho said.
“Who is Eddie Ybañez, Mr. Senator? Teach our youth to follow the rules by example, Mr. Senator. The rules of the Commission on Audit require that resumes of your consultants be submitted to COA. Can we see Mr. Ybañez’ resume?” Quicho said.
Quicho said aside from Ybañez, the senator should also explain the individual expertise of Bernard Allen Marzan and Jay-Ar Caro and the nature of their work.
According to media reports, the senator also listed as “consultants” his family drivers Marzan and Caro, who were being paid P11,500 and P8,100 a month, respectively.
“All he need to do is answer the questions to end the story,” he said.
Quicho said that Ybañez was getting only P3,500 a month while Trillanes brother Juan Antonio got a hefty P71,200 monthly as a consultant’s fee.
“What kind of confidential consultancy service did Mr. Ybañez provide the senator for P3,500 a month? What is his line of expertise?” Quicho asked.
Quicho cited Civil Service Commission (CSC) Resolution 000831 which defines a consultant as one “who provides professional advice on matters within the field of his special knowledge or training.”
The General Appropriations Act (GAA) allows consultancy service “when a consultant or expert is an acknowledged authority in his field of specialization” and “when the consultant or expert is hired to perform a specific activity or services that require technical skill and expertise which local labor force cannot provide, or if such expertise is available, the supply is limited.”
Quicho said a press statement from the senator’s office explained that some consultants were doing “auxiliary support services.”
“The senator’s so-called official reply raises more questions. The parameters of consultancy services are very clear. Consultants are experts, not support service suppliers,” he said.
He added that the term “auxiliary support services” was too vague and general that it could mean being a driver or performing janitorial and maintenance work.
“First, the papers being referred to and quoted are COA and Senate documents so to point finger at the camp of the Vice President is clearly evading the issue,” he added.
“Also, we have to remind the gentleman from Caloocan and Bicol, also a former officer and gentleman, that he is the one being questioned by the COA—not the Vice President —and therefore all he has to do is explain the nature and work of some of his consultants,” he added.
In the House, Parañaque Rep. Gus Tambunting said Congress should pass a law that will clearly provides guidelines on the hiring of consultants.
Tambunting said he sees nothing wrong with employing relatives as consultants as long as there’s a limit to it.
House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. said employing relatives as consultants “is an accepted practice in both Houses.”
“Moreover, the positions are considered confidential,” Belmonte said.
Unlike Trillanes, Belmonte said he does not have any consultant who is a relative.
COMMENT DISCLAIMER: Reader comments posted on this Web site are not in any way endorsed by Manila Standard. Comments are views by manilastandard.net readers who exercise their right to free expression and they do not necessarily represent or reflect the position or viewpoint of manilastandard.net. While reserving this publication’s right to delete comments that are deemed offensive, indecent or inconsistent with Manila Standard editorial standards, Manila Standard may not be held liable for any false information posted by readers in this comments section.