SENATOR Antonio Trillanes IV said Monday he was ready to face an ethics investigation over reports that he paid P1.63 million a month for consultants that included his houseboy, family drivers, media workers, campaign doners, ex-mutineer friends and a brother, who was paid P71,200 a month.
“I would welcome whoever will file the charges,” Trillanes told journalists, after the camp of Vice President Jejomar Binay urged the Senate ethics committee to investigate his hiring of consultants.
“The use of public funds for his personal benefit is clearly unethical, immoral and a blatant abuse of his office,” said Rico Quicho, Binay’s spokesman for political affairs. “The taxpayers are paying for his household expenses and his personal ‘debts’.”
“Even his houseboy was included among his consultants. He should stop moralizing and pontificating since the more he talks, the more he is exposed as a hypocrite. We are sure he will again blame the opposition for the exposé. But we did not invent the Senate documents. The senator should explain before he complains,” Quicho added.
Trillanes on Monday accused Binay of being behind the “demolition job” against him and said his office’s consultancy fees were declared “authorized and legal” by the Commission on Audit (COA).
He also insisted that he had committed no irregularity in paying consultancy fees to persons who helped him discharge his duties as a senator.
He admitted that a large chunk of his office expenses in 2014 went to intelligence gathering by his consultants, who included his colleagues at the Magdalo group.
“Of course, you will not hire consultants whom you do not trust,” he said.
These were the people he used to gather information and evidence used in the Senate Blue Ribbon hearings on the corruption charges against Binay and his family.
He earlier said he hired his brother as a consultant because he represents him in confidential meetings that he is unable to attend.
Trillanes also said he has received no notice of disallowance from COA.
“All we’re doing is authorized and legal based on the guidelines provided by COA,” he said.
He said that the senators sat with auditors and asked what mistakes were made and how these might be remedied.
“But COA said there was nothing illegal or unauthorized in what we are doing because we were given the discretion on how to spend our budget,” he said.
He said he can answer point by point all the allegations being made against him in connection with his consultants.
“The bottom line here is I did not steal government funds. I did not abuse my position,” he said.
He also denied allegations that he had a household help being paid with funds from the Senate.
He said the names mentioned in the Senate report were confidential agents that he used in the ongoing investigation of the Vice President.
“That’s not true. Definitely, there’s no such thing and I don’t give that low pay—P3,500 a month to my kasambahay (househodl help),” he said.
He also denied that he allocated more than half of his office’s budget to consultancy fees.
“The point here is we are spending the funds where we believe they’re needed,” Trillanes said.
The former mutineer said he was “prepared for everything” and was ready to answer all the charges being raised against him.
Trillanes has led the Senate investigation against Binay, and has held 23 hearings on the ongoing probe.
Trillanes also said the Binay camp should not be the one to suggest an ethics investigation against him, because “they have no balls.”
“They have no balls to face the Senate investigation,” he said, referring to Binay’s refusal to appear before the Senate Blue Ribbon subcommittee investigating him. “Vice President Binay has no balls. He’s courageous in operating, but when it’s face-to-face, he’s nothing,” Trillanes said.
But Quicho challenged Trillanes to explain how doing housework or being a family driver was considered confidential.
“It appears that Senator Trillanes took the concept of the Senate as one of two houses of Congress literally,” Quicho said. “He apparently got his budget for his house from the Upper House, also known as the Senate.”
He also scored Trillanes for using Senate funds to reward two people—Robert Fong and Fabian Go-- who contributed P500,000 each to his campaign in 2013.
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