Joker Arroyo: Congress’ Scrooge for 20 yearsBy Michael Lim Ubac
Philippine Daily Inquirer
The latest Commission on Audit’s (COA) itemized list of expenditures of senators further solidified his reputation as the most parsimonious lawmaker, spending only P16.6 million in 2010.
Arroyo’s annual expenses paled in comparison to what the Senate had to allot to maintain the upkeep of top spenders in the upper chamber: Senators Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and Antonio Trillanes IV. Estrada spent P24.6 million and Trillanes, P24.2 million.
Maintaining a miniscule staff of three people, Arroyo saved about P8 million, which was expected to go back to the Senate general fund for use to address pressing concerns of Senate employees.
The expenditures are grouped according to the senator’s salaries, local and foreign travels, salaries and benefits of staff members, meetings and conferences, professional/consultancy fees, supplies and materials, office rental and equipment, extraordinary and miscellaneous expenses, capital outlay and other expenses.
Like Senator Panfilo Lacson, Arroyo has not been collecting his share of the Priority Development Assistance Fund or pork barrel which amounts to P200 million per year.
Both Lacson and Arroyo are barred from seeking reelection once their second consecutive term ends in 2013.
While Arroyo was all by his lonesome in the P16-million expenditure range, four colleagues—Senators Edgardo Angara, Loren Legarda, Manuel Villar and Manuel Lapid—followed in his footsteps with expenses ranging from P18 million to P19 million.
The rest of the senators spent at least P20 million each: Miriam Defensor-Santiago (P20.3 million), Alan Peter Cayetano (P20.4 million) and Pia Cayetano (P20.9 million); (resigned) Juan Miguel Zubiri (P21.1 million), Gregorio Honasan II (P21.4 million) and Francis Escudero (P21.6 million); Juan Ponce Enrile (P23.1 million), Francis Pangilinan (P23.4 million) and Ramon Revilla Jr. (P23.6 million); Estrada (P24.6 million) and Trillanes (P24.4 million).
The COA also listed the expenses of newly elected senators who assumed their posts on June 30, 2010, bringing the total number to 29 instead of 24.
From July to December of 2010, the expenditures of Senators Franklin Drilon, Sergio Osmeña III, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Ralph Recto, Vicente Sotto III and Teofisto Guingona III ranged from P9 million to P11 million.
Because 2010 was an election year, 12 senators were elected, while 12 remained. Thus, the report listed two categories: those who served for the full year of 2010 and those who served for only six months of the year.
From January to June, the expenses of the senators who left the Senate in July of that year were Senators Aquilino Pimentel Jr. (P7.4 million), Manuel Roxas II (P9.5 million), Maria Ana Consuelo Madrigal (P9.8 million), Richard Gordon (P9.9 million), Benigno Aquino III (P11.8 million) and Rodolfo Biazon (P12.1 million).
Arroyo’s frugal ways caught the attention of media when he was elected representative of Makati City in 1992.
For nine years in the House of Representatives, Arroyo, a human rights lawyer who fought the Marcos dictatorship, discharged his legislative duties with no staff.
There was no one in his office, which was usually locked.
Reporters saw him doing his work in the session hall, reading legislative journals and writing correspondence by long hand.
After the first term, Arroyo did not ask for committee chairmanships in his succeeding two terms as congressman.
He brought this attitude to the Senate when he was elected in 2001, keeping just three staff members.
Despite the sheer logistical nightmare of keeping tabs of committee hearings and the progress of bills and resolutions, and attending sessions, Arroyo was able to chair key committees—blue ribbon, congressional power commission and human rights and public services.
He has not chaired any committee in the current 15th Congress.