Izza Belle Basubas
The Office of the President (OVP) proposes a P 10.7 billion budget, sparking questions on where the funds are to be used. Photo courtesy of Balita.net.
In a House plenary session on proposed P10.707-billion budget of the Office of the President (OP) for 2024 also discussed Vice President Sara Duterte’s letter dated August 22, 2022 containing the request for extra funds to “ensure the continuous operations” of the Office of the Vice President.
After a month of assuming office in mid-2022, VP Duterte immediately sought an additional P403 million in funding for the rest of 2022; half of it is in confidential funds.
In the letter, Duterte broke down the purpose of the additional funds including Php 144.72 million for "augmentation of financial assistance or subsidy" of OVP satellite offices in seven areas. Php 8.74 million for the creation of the Vice President Security and Protection Group of 450 staff members and its special duty allowance.
It also specified Php 107.46 million for an additional 192 positions to man her projects, such as satellite offices, free ride program, mobile kitchen, and peace-building initiative in Marawi. And Php 250 million for confidential funds for the safe implementation of various projects and activities under the “Good Governance programme" instructed by the president.
The letter was signed by VP Duterte herself, which further stated that the OVP "is committed to formulating programmes, projects, and activities relevant to national security and peace and order."
The Department of Budget and Management (DBM), however, only grants P221.424 million of Duterte’s P403.46 million request based on the special allotment release (SARO) dated December 13, 2022.
DBM further approves only P125 million for confidential funds and P96.424 million for financial assistance or subsidies.
Upon reading the letter of the Vice President, the Liberal Party described the transfer of intelligence and confidential funds from the Office of the President to the Office of the Vice President as unconstitutional.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman states, “It is unconstitutional for any transfer of funds from the OP to another office like the OVP as he invokes Section 25(5) of Article 6 of the 1987 Constitution.”
“Such transfer of augmentation is only allowed to constitutional officers like the President relative to savings for augmentation of any deficient allocation in their respective offices,” Lagman added.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros criticized VP Duterte for spending the confidential funds in less than two weeks.
“What kind of magic is there that they used up P125 million in 11 days on a spending spree?" Sen. Hontiveros stated.
The senator compared the P118.7 million in confidential funds of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) allocated to it from 2006 to 2023.
She said the Vice President’s spending spree equates to P11 million in secret funds used up in a day.
“The question remains: Where did you spend the money? The nation is waiting for your receipts,” Hontiveros added.