Scrooge of Congress? Joker retains title

Published by rudy Date posted on January 14, 2009

For 17 straight years, Sen. Joker Arroyo has remained the undisputed “Scrooge of Congress” for being the thriftiest, most frugal, tight-fisted, penny-pinching lawmaker.

The officially published Itemized List of Expenses of each senator for 2007 as audited by Commission on Audit (COA) showed that Arroyo had the lowest expenses for incumbent senators who served the full 12 months.

COA statistics showed that the senator incurred expenses of P12,293,084.06.

Only Sen. Manuel Villar came close, spending P12,442,323.98. Villar was ousted last November following speculations that he may have used his previous position as Senate President to pursue his presidential plans.

The COA report showed actors-turned-senators were the biggest spenders. Sen. Bong Revilla was on top with P15,889,626.66 followed by President Pro-Tempore Jinggoy Estrada with P15,449,229.69. Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan’s expenses amounted to P15,271,305.21 while Sen. Lito Lapid spent P15,103,242.15.

Pangilinan is the only non show-biz personality among the top four biggest spenders, although he is married to actress and mega star Sharon Cuneta.

When reached for comment by The STAR, Arroyo said he hopes to encourage his colleagues to be frugal in spending the people’s money. “I sacrificed for that. I deprived myself a few million pesos. I want to impress on my colleagues that we should try to be thrifty,” he said.

However, the senator expressed surprise when he learned that the newcomers in the Senate spent an average of P7 million for the first six months alone.

Seven senators who were elected in the May 2007 elections served only for six months in 2007 and therefore, their expenses should have only been half that of senators who served 12 months.

“Yet, their expenses are a revelation,” Arroyo said.

Records showed that it was detained Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV who had spent the most among the newcomers.

Trillanes is barred from attending session and cannot perform his duties as senator because he is in a military stockade.

For six months from July 1 to Dec. 31, 2007, he spent P8,167,433.95, COA records showed.

Analysis on that data showed that if you double that amount to simulate a 12-month service, the former Oakwood mutineer would be spending P16,334,867.90, thereby making him the biggest spending legislator ever in the Senate.

The six other newly elected senators had a median expense from July 1 to Dec. 31, 2007 of P7,602,386.00 or the equivalent of P15,204,830.00 for a full year.

That places them in the high-spenders’ list.

In ascending order, their expenditures are: Sen. Noynoy Aquino, P7,233,950.09; Juan Miguel Zubiri, P7,486,542.34; Alan Peter Cayetano, P7,490,153.03; Loren Legarda, P7,511,829.43; Francis Escudero, P7,782,864.79; and Gringo Honasan, P8,109,000.39.

Meanwhile, the mid-range spenders who spent P13.5 million to P15 million in ascending order, from the lowest to the highest, were Senate minority leader Aquilino Pimentel, Edgardo Angara, Mar Roxas, Pia Cayetano, Jamby Madrigal, Panfilo Lacson, Richard Gordon, Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Rodolfo Biazon, and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.

Records revealed that Pimentel spent P13,452,506.50; Angara, P13,579,151.74; Roxas, P13,810,176.81; Pia Cayetano, P13,916,309.50; Madrigal, P14,305,778.16, Lacson, P14,456,161.38;

Gordon, P14,491,565.44; Santiago, P14,806,163.63; Biazon, P14,895,189.42 and Enrile, P14,993,705.40.

Arroyo’s frugality with legislative monies started in the House of Representatives where he had no staff, except for a driver and a utility man, doing his work as congressman all by himself, including making his own phone calls. He carried this work ethic to the Senate when he was elected in 2001 and had a skeletal staff of three.

Arroyo is also proud of his perfect attendance record for 17 years. It’s like not being absent from class even once from Grade 1 until you graduate from college, he said.

Since Arroyo joined the government in 1986 as Executive Secretary up to the present, he has never traveled on government money.

Arroyo chose not to chair any committee in the present 14th Congress although he was offered two prize committees.

In the 12th and 13th Congresses, he chaired the Blue Ribbon Committee, the Public Services Committee, and the Justice and Human Rights Committee and has always prepared a committee report or at least a disposition report for every referral to any committee he chairs.

Arroyo has no media officer, writes his own press statements, discusses only issues he considers important and avoids subjects that he feels are inanities, but occasionally drops by the media office after everyone has filed his story and enjoys bantering with media.

Reporters who covered Arroyo in the legislative beats know that he writes his own press releases by hand, and even faxes them to reporters. Arroyo keeps a small phonebook where he writes the contact numbers of media and political personalities.–Christina Mendez, Philippine Star

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