An urban legend in the Senate I dimly recall was that once Senator/Kuya Teroy Laurel and I had an exchange on whether our merienda in the Senate comprised additional compensation under Section 10 of Article VII of the Constitution.
As chair of the Senate ethics committee I had to resolve the doubt or issue against myself. I stopped having merienda in the Senate where the parsimony of Uncle Jovy (then Senate President Jovito Salonga) was equally legendary. He would provide Sunflower biscuits, reminding me of how we would call the incumbent president then, Corazon Aquino, “Cory-pot.” [A play on the Filipino word for tightwad—Ed.] I brought my own baon in my bag.
I could only eat my heart out every time I would go to the Batasan where a quorum for succulent meals was never a problem.
Maybe our time is lost and gone forever. When I ran for senator and won in 1987, I did not have to spend a single centavo of my own. The people carried me.
The Constitution says all appropriation measures can originate exclusively in the House of Representatives.
Nothing gives the Senate President and the Speaker the power to be generous with taxpayers’ (not their) money.
I know underpaid lawmakers and their needy staff have holiday and other needs. Car-less Sen. Mike Tamano and I needed vehicles, but when the Senate so provided, the public howled, and it retreated. Needy but not greedy, I had to leave the Senate in 1992. I could not have Sunflower and rely on my wife’s Mondragon pay forever.