NEWS: Cong. Olano clarifies report tagging him third biggest spender in Congress

By Cha Monforte, Rural Urban News

feb 15

Davao del Norte Congressman Arrel Olano (first district) clarified earlier published report tagging him as the third biggest spender in the House of Representatives saying that he did not misuse people’s money and that he just religiously complied with the new baseline form required by the Civil Service Commission (CSC) to all lawmakers and all government employees in 2008.

In a press conference Saturday, he said that his P7.848-million expenses cited by the report published in the Philippine Star last February 5 was just within the bounds of expenditure allowed and proper to his office and to his chairmanship to the committee on rural development and his membership to the important oversight committee and other House committees.

He recalled that in early 2008 when the CSC introduced the new baseline form which included itemized listing of expenditures there were complaints relating to the detailed filling up of the form, but the congressman complied and “declared all” his reimbursable expenses including those he incurred in his participation to committees in pursuance to transparency sought by CSC.

He said that he did not know whether other House members did the same although he learned that the form was not really fully implemented that in the middle 2008 the CSC stopped requiring it from lawmakers.

“But in 2009 the (CSC) announced that the compliance to the form was not voluntary but compulsory, and I did not change my way of reporting on baseline expenses,” Cong. Olano said.

But he asked readers on the report including reporters to look at it again and compare his expenditure to other lawmakers mentioned in the report who made only scarce presence in Congress but incurred higher expenses.

He said that Negros Occidental Rep. Julio “Jules” Ledesma IV made only his presence in Congress when President Arroyo delivered her State of the Nation Address but he incurred P5.782-million expenses, while Abono Rep. Robert Estrella, who was cited by the report as the most frugal incurred PP5.703 -million expenses.

Also, Olano also said that his expenses were used for various purposes including maintenance and other operating expenses, research, travels, communication and fees for his two consultants.

He admitted that in all his congressional budget for these would amount to over P600,000 monthly, and “that is applicable to all 268 congressmen” besides the budget that went for the salaries of his staff and to projects funded by what is dubbed as pork barrel.

The report that in 2008 each lawmaker has allocations of P300,000 for “consultants”, P540,000 for research, P500,400 each for public affairs, P600,000 each for MOE (maintenance and other expenses), P1 million each for district staff allocation and P189,600 each for communication expenses.

On the way of graduating from this third term, Olano is running now for mayoralty in Tagum City under independent Lakas-Kampi-CMD. He is squaring off with reelectionist City Mayor Rey Chiong Uy, former Governor Gelacio “Yayong” Gementiza and ex-police investigator and businessman Cesar Cuntapay. (Cha Monforte/Rural Urban News)

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