THIS is really quite amazing. The Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court in February 2017 ordered Sen. Leila de Lima arrested and detained on drug-trafficking charges, with several witnesses fingering her.
Yet as a senator, de Lima has received her full salary and benefits, and spent everything allowed a fully functioning senator since 2017. But other than incessantly ranting against President Rodrigo Duterte and other government agencies on her Facebook account, have you heard any real output from her, a good research study or a bill that became law, even if this were done by her staff, and simply attributed to her?
The P400 million is based on the Senate’s recent report of amounts paid to and expenses for each senator from January to December 2019. For that year, de Lima’s salaries and benefits as well as those of her staff, and other expenses for her office totaled P107 million.
In fact the detained de Lima is the fourth biggest spender in the Senate, after Senators Mary Grace Poe (P107 million), Ralph Recto (P113 million) and Juan Miguel Zubiri (P110 million). The Republic has spent more for her than Senate President Vicente Sotto 3rd (P102 million) and Sen. Panfilo Lacson (P94 million). We spend more for a senator in her cell than the Senate president and an inarguably busy legislator.
Unless de Lima claims otherwise, I do not have any doubt that her spending habits as a senator had changed from the year before last, so P106 million for her and her office in 2019, would total roughly P400 million in four years.
But de Lima claims to be the leader of the opposition, throwing all kinds of mud at the President and claiming to so upright that the Yellows are mulling the idea that she should perhaps be their presidential standard-bearer in the 2022 elections. If indeed she will, the opposition will just be wasting their money and time.
Why she described herself in her Facebook page, as “Human rights defender, prisoner of conscience.”
Well, this prisoner isn’t in a particularly dire situation. De Lima is getting the annual salary of top executives, P3 million, and considering that she has had free room and board, doesn’t need a senator’s wardrobe, and doesn’t have a family to feed, she’ll have P18 million when she steps down from office. No wonder, in contrast to the dour visage of real “prisoners of conscience” like Aung San Suu Kyi in the 1990s, de Lima is always photographed smiling and hardly seeming not to have lost a pound in her four years of imprisonment.
She has spent about P70 million a year for services she demands almost as a whim. As a citizen, I would demand information on the following:
Being in jail, what are the “extraordinary and miscellaneous expenses” that amounted to P10.5 million in 2019 (so, P40 million from P2017 to 2020) she spent for?
What has her staff, whom we taxpayers paid P47 million in salaries in 2019, plus P3 million for “meetings and conferences” and P6 million in travel, been doing?
I don’t think her core staff would have spent P6 million last year commuting from the Senate to Camp Crame where she is detained, unless they are using five-star hotel limousines. In fact, de Lima spent P3.2 million last year to rent motor vehicles. This was the biggest for such expense among all 24 senators.
De Lima claimed she spent P10.4 million for consultancy fees, bigger than Sotto’s P6.6 milllion and Lacson’s P5.4 million. I hope this wasn’t for lawyers’ fees to defend herself from the drug-trafficking charges against her. That would be the use of taxpayers’ money for her personal benefit which, if not explicity, implicitly, violates our anti-graft laws.
De Lima, however, issued a press statement a year ago claiming that she had filed 144 bills and and 142 resolutions, implicitly claiming that her expenses as a senator was due to her and her staff’s work.
Any senator however would know that most bills aren’t really worth the paper they’re printed on, and can be spewed out in a couple of days by staffers. If they’re not well researched and, more importantly, able to gather the support — via co-authorhip — of other senators so it would even merit deliberation in the relevant committee, it will just go the Senate’s dustbin it calls its archives. I haven’t heard a bill filed by de Lima that generated any support, even from her Yellow colleagues in the Senate.
De Lima is even filing bills that are thinly disguised as manifestoes against Duterte, as in her bill filed in 2019 titled “Defining Extrajudicial Killing, Providing for its Penalty and other Purposes.” In this bill, she claims that according to the Commission on Human Rights, the number of those killed in Duterte’s anti-drug war could be 27,000.” That’s total BS, a deliberate fake news that unfortunately has gone around the world, as it were. I have written seven columns debunking point by point how such a number had been fabricated, for instance in “Tatad’s Fake data; 14,000 EJKs.”
So, it could be an even much worse a situation than de Lima’s staff and consultants twiddling their thumbs just waiting for the 5 p.m. alarm. They could be manufacturing anti-administration propaganda, their salaries paid for by us taxpayers.