MANILA, JULY 7, 2007
(STAR) By Jess Diaz - Here’s one for Ripley’s Believe It Or Not: Filipino taxpayers shelled out nearly P151 million for every proposed piece of legislation that their lawmakers passed in the last three years.

Opposition Rep. Carlos Padilla of Nueva Vizcaya revealed yesterday that the two chambers of the 13th Congress, whose three-year term ended last June 30, spent a total of P12.5 billion but approved only 83 bills that President Arroyo signed into law.

“That’s an average expenditure of P150.6 million for every bill that was enacted into law. And many of those laws are local in application, meaning they seek to change the name of a street or establish a national high school,” he said.

He said the expenditures were salaries, allowances and bonuses for senators and congressmen, their staff, secretariat personnel, and operational and travel expenses.

“The huge sum of P12.5 billion did not include pork barrel allocations of P70 million per House member and P200 million per senator,” the comebacking Padilla, who served as minority leader in a previous Congress, said.

He pointed out that the process of making laws has increased nearly three times since the post-martial law Congress when the late Palawan Rep. Ramon Mitra Jr. was Speaker.

“Back then, they spent P4.4 billion and enacted exactly 1,000 bills,” he said.

On Thursday, Padilla urged the House leadership to solve the perennial problem of absenteeism among members of the chamber so they can be more productive and make the lawmaking process more cost-efficient for the Filipino taxpayer.

He said whoever wins the fight for the post of Speaker between incumbent House boss Jose de Venecia Jr. and his challenger, Cebu Rep. Pablo Garcia, his top priority should be ensuring that there is enough attendance in sessions.

He cited the fact that the House failed to muster quorum during the final week of session of the 13th Congress in early June when lawmakers reconvened after a four-month election break.

Because of such failure, important bills were not passed, including one that aims to bring the prices of medicines down and the P10-billion compensation package for thousands of victims of human rights violations during martial law.

In the Senate, though there was quorum, senators sat on a bill that the House had transmitted to them more than a year ago and which would have spared millions of minimum wage earners from paying income tax.

Padilla’s revelation on the cost of lawmaking prompted Sorsogon Rep. Jose Solis to criticize the De Venecia-led House which at one time reported saving P60 million.

Solis said House leaders resorted to “window dressing” by making it appear that they saved taxpayers’ money when in fact they spent more on a per-bill or law basis.

The Sorsogon congressman is supporting Garcia’s bid to be the next Speaker.

On the other hand, De Venecia supporter Rep. Monico Puentevella of Bacolod City echoed Padilla’s call for the next House boss to put an end to the absenteeism problem.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved