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Recto, De Lima should follow Bong Go’s example

“They should follow the laudable example of Senator Bong Go who is frugal with money that rightfully belongs not to him but to the overburdened taxpayers.

Victor Avecilla

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The cost of the anticipated importation of anti-Covid-19 vaccines will be a big drain on the national coffers.

Because the national safety and health are involved, the government of President Rodrigo Duterte has no choice but to set aside all that money for that purpose.

Covid-19 and the cost of fighting it are upon us during these extraordinarily difficult times, and so the penchant of most politicians to spend public funds indiscriminately should be a bad habit of the past.

Obviously, some economizing on the part of abusive government officials is needed.

Instead of complaining about almost anything under the sun, and considering the amount of public money needed in fighting Covid-19, public officials, particularly those in the Senate, should stop squandering public funds like the way they were accustomed to during pre-coronavirus times.

The recent revelation from the Commission on Audit (CoA) about the expenses incurred by senators for the year 2019 is very alarming.

According to the CoA, Senator Ralph Recto’s office spent a whopping P113,484,153.02 for salaries, extraordinary and miscellaneous expenses, local and overseas trips, travel expenses, salaries, meetings, consultants’ fees, supplies, rental of motor vehicles, and more.

That’s almost P10 million each month for one year!
More disturbing is the CoA revelation that Senator Leila de Lima, who has been in detention at Camp Crame in Quezon City since February 2017, ranked fifth among the top spenders in the Senate in 2019. The CoA report revealed that De Lima’s office spent P106,447,424.95, and that her expenses for motor vehicles and equipment rentals are the biggest among the senators, at P3,165,124.96.

How is it that De Lima can spend all that money when she is incarcerated at Camp Crame? Taxpayers can only imagine in horror how much more public funds De Lima would have spent if she were not in jail.

The other big spenders identified in the CoA report published in the news media are Juan Miguel Zubiri, P110,625,189.05; Grace Poe, P107,124,152.64; Manny Pacquiao, P106,999,087.83; Aquilino Pimentel III, P105,664,250.13; Sherwin Gatchalian, P105,278,449.35; Francis Pangilinan, P105,253,403.53; and Vicente Sotto III, P102,019,240.91.

It appears from the report that Pangilinan spent the most money on consultants, at P15,543,279.75.

In contrast, Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, who assumed office in July 2019, spent only P33,744,500.52 for similar expenses over a period of six months.

According to Recto, his office gave out a lot of donations to typhoon victims, and that since he is the Senate President Pro-Tempore, he has additional work that results in additional expenses.

He also said that the comparisons on spending among the senators are inaccurate because the outgoing and incoming senators served only half of fiscal year 2019.

Recto’s excuse is hogwash.

Being an officer of the Senate may entail additional work, but that still does not explain why Recto spent about P11 million more than Senate President Sotto did in 2019.

Recto’s argument, i.e., that the senators who served for the entire 2019 are expected to spend more than the outgoing and incoming senators who served for just six months of the same year, is misplaced, as demonstrated by the expenditures of Senator Go.

To repeat, the office of Senator Go spent P33,744,500.52 over six months. By inference, Go’s office would have spent double that amount, or about P67 million, over a one-year period. That P67 million would still be far less than the P113,484,153.02 spent by Recto’s office for the whole 12 months of 2019.

Even if Go’s expenditures for six months of 2019 were multiplied three times to cover a period of 18 months, the total will still be about P13 million less than what Recto spent for just 12 months of 2019.

Let’s face it. Senators Recto, De Lima and their kind are spending public funds in an amount far more than they should, ostensibly because the public money at their disposal isn’t theirs to begin with.

They should follow the laudable example of Senator Bong Go who is frugal with money that rightfully belongs not to him but to the overburdened taxpayers.

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