ACT slams House panel cover-up on OVP fund use

Elizabeth Marcelo - The Philippine Star
ACT slams House panel cover-up on OVP fund use
Members of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers hold a protest rally in Mendiola, Manila in August 2022.
The STAR / Miguel De Guzman, file

MANILA, Philippines — The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) has slammed the House of Representatives committee on appropriations for using the principle of “parliamentary courtesy” to supposedly cover up Vice President Sara Duterte’s accountability in the utilization of public funds, particularly the Office of the Vice President’s P125 million in confidential expenses in 2022.

“It was a shameful act (by the House committee) to immediately terminate the hearing on the proposed budget of the OVP. The public was not given a chance to hear from the Vice President how the OVP intends to use its proposed budget amid still unanswered issues about her office’s supposed misuse of its 2022 budget,” ACT chairman Vladimer Quetua said in Filipino in a press statement before the weekend.

The OVP’s proposed P2.4-billion budget for 2024 was approved by the House appropriations panel on Wednesday without a single lawmaker asking Duterte any question.

Right after the OVP’s presentation of its proposed budget, Senior Deputy Majority Leader Sandro Marcos moved to terminate the briefing, citing “parliamentary courtesy.”

While ACT Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro objected to Marcos’ motion, she was not allowed to manifest her objection and was told to submit it in writing. Her microphone was turned off immediately after the chairman formally ended the briefing.

“It is very alarming that this incident happened in broad daylight with only the Makabayan representatives objecting to the termination of the hearing. There is a need for the committee on appropriations to be called out for not following parliamentary procedures and deliberately covering up the Vice President’s accountability in the utilization of public funds,” the ACT’s statement read.

Castro had earlier revealed that the OVP has spent its entire P125-million confidential fund (CF) for 2022 in just 19 days or from Dec. 13 to 31, which translates to about P6.5 million per day.

Without providing specifics on how her office spent its 2022 confidential fund, Duterte maintained that there was nothing irregular or unauthorized in the spending.

“For the 2022 CF in the amount of P125 million, the OVP has already planned and identified events, activities and projects to be covered by the CF as early as August,” Duterte said in a statement on Wednesday.

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