COA: Recto top spender; Go most frugal senator

Cecille Suerte Felipe (The Philippine Star) - February 25, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto was the top spender while first-termer Sen. Bong Go was the most frugal among the senators, the Commission on Audit (COA) report for fiscal year 2019 revealed.

The report published in The STAR yesterday covered the Senate and the House of Representatives’ itemized list of amounts paid to and expenses in the period of Jan 1. to Dec 31, 2019.

Recto’s office incurred expenses of P113,484,153.02 for salaries, extraordinary and miscellaneous expenses, both local and foreign trips, travel expenses of staff, salaries and benefits of staff, meetings and conferences, professional and consultancy, supplies and materials, rental of motor vehicles, equipment, other miscellaneous and operating expenses for the entire 2019.

Recto said his office incurred a lot of expenses as he gave out a lot of donations. “We also did donations in 2019 to provinces hit by typhoons. I also expect 2020 (expenses) to be similar,” he said.

Moreover, he pointed out how comparisons on spending cannot be accurately drawn among senators because outgoing and incoming senators in that election year served only half the fiscal year.

“Be that as it may, the Senate officers, namely the Senate President, President Pro-Tempore, Majority Leader and the Minority Leader also have additional budget due to the additional work they have in those leadership positions. Thus, most likely, they will incur more expenses as compared with other senators,” said Recto.

Go, who assumed office on July 1, 2019 after being elected two months prior, spent only P33,744,500.52 for similar expenses.

Sen. Leila de Lima, detained at the Custodial Center of Camp Crame since February, 2017, was fifth among the top spenders in the Senate, shelling out P106,447,424.95 in total. She incurred the biggest bill on motor vehicles and equipment rentals at P3,165,124.96.

Other senators who spent over P100 million in 2019 were Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri at P110,625,189.05; followed by Sen. Grace Poe, P107,124,152.64; and Sen. Manny Pacquiao, 106,999,087.83; Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III, P105,664,250.13; Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, P105,278,449.35; Sen. Francis Pangilinan, P105,253,403.53; and Senate President Vicente Sotto III, P102,019,240.91.

“It’s for people to know where and how we spend their money,” Sotto said of the need to publish the expenses of the Senate and House of Representatives.

The COA report showed Pacquiao did not charge a single centavo of his local and foreign travels to the Senate.

Sen. Richard Gordon incurred P99,286,106.95 in expenses, reelected Sen. Nancy Binay spent P94,153,718.68, followed by Sen. Risa Hontiveros, P94,128,513.91; Sen. Panfilo Lacson, P93,673,516.18; Sen. Sonny Angara, P90,730,266.86; Sen. Joel Villanueva, P82,550,407.31, Sen. Cynthia Villar,P82,179,400.27; and Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, P79,753,698.44.

Returning senators or those elected in the May 2019 elections included Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr. who spent P48,402,484.85; Sen. Lito Lapid, P45,141,531.82; and Sen. Pia Cayetano, P40,333,669.43.

First-termers elected alongside them were Sen. Ronald Bato dela Rosa who spent P46,674,682.38; Sen. Imee Marcos, P40,934,901.31; and Sen. Francis Tolentino, P39,265,603.55.

The COA report also contained the expenses of senators whose terms ended in June, 2019. They were former senators Bam Aquino who incurred P69,473,846.67; Antonio Trillanes IV, P68,445,906.63; now Information and Communications Technology Secretary Gregorio Honasan, P62,484,641.39; now Sorsogon Gov. Francis Chiz Escudero, P59,954,463.35; now Antique Rep. Loren Legarda, P58,375,369.52; and Sen. JV Ejercito, P57,823,985.24.

The report also indicated that Pangilinan spent the most on consultants at P15,543,279.75, followed by Villar at P14,060,403.75, then Pacquiao at P12,475,000, Trillanes at P12,252,600, Drilon at P10,852,200, and De Lima at P10,328,125.

Dela Rosa, Gatchalian, Marcos and Cayetano paid the least for consultancy at P300,000; P1,324,677.42, P1,540,000, and P1,896,070, respectively.

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