April - May 2008
2015 or bust?

Gloria’s spending spree: Travel, ‘donations’ top Palace expenses

IN 2007, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s presidency spent a total of P249.5 million to pay the salaries and wages of its regular employees; and P10.7 million to pay casual and contractual employees.

Combined, that means P260.2 million to pay the rank and file of the Office of the President, and 58 other executive offices, agencies, commissions, and committees under Arroyo.

But in the same year, Arroyo spent more than double for her foreign and domestic travels, which totaled P588.5 million and P34.1 million, respectively, according to the Commission on Audit (COA)’s report on the 2007 financial transactions of Malacañang.

In fact, she spent much more — P618.6 million — in “donations” to yet unknown beneficiaries, the COA report revealed.

Malacañang, the COA report showed, spent similarly big amounts for broad, discretionary, and seemingly identical accounts, including:

Confidential expenses P149 million
Consultancy services P59.6 million
Representation expenses P56.8 million
Representation allowance P14.5 million
Other bonuses and allowance P28.8 million
Transportation allowance P10.3 million
Advertising expenses P6.9 million
Additional compensation (ADCOM) P24.8 million
Extraordinary expenses P6.64 million
Miscellaneous expenses P5.4 million
Other personnel benefits P119.8 million
Subsidy to Regional Offices/Staff Bureaus/Branch Offices P46.6 million

The COA report showed that apart from these amounts, the Office of the President had paid out in 2007 P21 million in “yearend bonus,” P7.1 million in “cash gift,” and P651,000 in “honoraria.”

The President was also revealed to keep a high-maintenance household, which may be in keeping with her role as chief executive and fount of power in the land. Yet the COA report showed that what Malacañang spends on the usual costs like food, communication, utilities, office and other supplies, gasoline, security, among others, could cause taxpayers sleepless nights.

For her 2007 foreign travels alone, Arroyo spent .an average of P49.04 million per month. In addition, she spent P2.84 million on local travel per month. Combined, that means a monthly bill of P51.8 million for the peripatetic president.

By most expense entries enrolled in the COA report, Arroyo’s official household is hardly a pauper’s palace. Malacañang spends like it is a real profligate’s paradise. In 2007, the presidency billed the following expenses on taxpayers:

Food supplies expenses P55.7 million or P4.6 million a month
Electricity P54.5 million or an average of P4.5 million a month
Gasoline, oil and lubricants P27.9 million or P2.3 million a month
Water P25.4 million or P2.1 million a month
Security services P13 million or P1.08 million a month
Janitorial services P4.8 million or P400,000 a month
Telephone, landline P13.5 million or P1.1 million a month
Telephone, mobile P9.07 million or P755,000 a month
Office supplies P13.5 million or P1.1 million a month
“Other supplies” P19.4 million or P1.6 million a month
Subscription expenses P1.04 million or P86,000 a month
Cooking gas P892,000 or P74,000 a month
Internet P332,597 or P27,716 a month
Cable, satellite, telegraph and radio P300,955 or P25,079 a month

Arroyo’s household disbursed more millions for “repair and maintenance” expenses, including P94.89 million for aircraft and aircraft ground equipment; P7.1 million for motor vehicles; P4.2 million for furniture and fixtures; P1.02 million for office equipment; and P1.09 million for other machinery and equipment.

In contrast to the millions splurged on these expenses, the presidency scrimped on other seemingly important expense items.

For instance, it disbursed only P433,915 for the whole of 2007 in “training expenses,” and reported zero spending on “textbooks and instructional materials,” “storage expenses,” “military and police supplies,” “medical, dental and laboratory supplies,” “awards and indemnities,” and “hazard pay.” — Malou Mangahas