Joker was Senate's 'Scrooge' for 21 years

By Christina Mendez, The Philippine Star

Posted at Feb 18 2014 05:13 AM | Updated as of Feb 18 2014 01:14 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Former senator Joker Arroyo finished his term being the most frugal senator of his batch in 2012.

Arroyo’s feat was reflected in the Commission on Audit’s “Itemized List of Amounts Paid to and Expenses Incurred for Each Senator from January 1 to December 31, 2012.”

The senator’s staff noted that the COA report mirrored what is good and what is bad with the Senate in handling funds.

Arroyo spent a total of P34.927 million, making him retain his “Scrooge of the Year” title for the past 21 years in Congress.

Apart from that, Arroyo had not availed of his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) during his career as congressman and senator. He was congressman for nine years and senator for 12 years.

Arroyo was a human rights lawyer who fought the Marcos dictatorship before becoming congressman of Makati in 1992. He ran and won for senator in 2001, bringing his thrift attitude until he reached his last term and retired in mid-2013.

Following Arroyo was now Senate President Franklin Drilon who spent P38,230,938.48 and Sen. Serge Osmeña III who spent P41, 489,332.13. The three are dubbed as the thriftiest senators in 2012 in the scandal-ridden Senate.

The report highlighted the “high rollers” in the Senate headed by then Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile who spent P123,457,526.16; former president pro tempore Jinggoy Estrada who spent P67,597,673.66; and ex- majority leader Vicente Sotto who spent P61,331,482.40, all officers of the Senate then.

Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV and Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, archenemies of Enrile, spent P61,297,436.50 and P59,788,393.09, respectively.

Senators Aquilino Pimentel III, Ramon Revilla Jr and Francis Escudero had expenses of P53,875,844.88, P53,634,687.69 and P53,471,869.02, respectively.

The remaining senators spent reasonable amounts, namely: Miriam Defensor-Santiago, P42,619,610.72; Manuel Villar, P43,083,382.26; Teofisto Guingona III, P3,667,154.99; Lito Lapid, P45,041,316.24; Pia Cayetano, P45,353,868.27; Ralph Recto, P6,235,368.51; Panfilo Lacson, P46,509,062.73; Loren Legarda, P47,287,408.65; Edgardo Angara, P48,521,875.73; Francis Pangilinan, P49,623,007.48; Gregorio Honasan, P49,684,133.95; and Ferdinand Marcos Jr., P 50,185,920.20.

Trillanes rebuffs COA report

Meanwhile, Trillanes disputed the tag that he was the highest spender in the Senate during that year.

“There is nothing in the said COA report that mentioned me, by any standard, as the biggest spender in the Senate nor did I spend illegally the allocated budget for my office,” Trillions said.

He pointed to Enrile as the biggest spender at that time, with a total amount of P123,457,526.16, “more than twice my expenditure, which is P61,297,436.50.”

He defended his big-ticket expenses, saying that the bulk of his expenditure went to salaries and benefits of his staff.

He explained that this is due to the fact that he has the most number of employees, based on the quota given to his office.

Trillanes said compared to other senators, he had the smallest expenditure under the Miscellaneous and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE), together with Senator Bongbong Marcos.