Militant lawmakers raise objections to OP budget for 2024

Helen Flores, Delon Porcalla - The Philippine Star
Militant lawmakers raise objections to OP budget for 2024
President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. on June 29, 2023.
STAR / KJ Rosales

MANILA, Philippines — Unlike in the budget hearing for the office of Vice President Sara Duterte, militant lawmakers were allowed Tuesday to manifest their objection to the proposed P10.7-billion allocation for the Office of the President for 2024.

Party-list Reps. France Castro of ACT Teachers, Arlene Brosas of women’s group Gabriela and Raoul Manuel of Kabataan – who comprise the Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives – were each given two minutes to make their opposition known.

As a matter of tradition, agencies such as the Office of the Vice President and Office of the President are accorded much leeway during deliberations of the national budget, wherein such processes only takes a few minutes.

Rep. Ching Bernos of the lone district of Abra made a motion before the House committee on appropriations headed by Rep. Zaldy Co (Ako Bicol party-list) to terminate the budget discussions “due to long-standing tradition of extending parliamentary courtesy to the OP.”

The progressive lawmakers wanted to question a decision of President Marcos granting Duterte, his running-mate in the May 2022 presidential elections, P125-million confidential fund (CF) in 2022 even if this was not available in the General Appropriations Act.

The lawmakers opposed the granting of P4.5 billion in OP’s confidential and intelligence funds under the agency’s budget for next year, which is P10.7 billion.

The OP was represented by Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin.

During a Senate committee hearing on Monday, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III brought up the issue on the OVP’s P125-million CF last year.

Pimentel yesterday said there were violations in the transfer of funds from the OP for the OVP’s use as CFs in 2022.

He said it was irregular for the OVP to charge its P125- million secret funds to the P221.424-million contingent funds of the OP.

The fund transfer was requested by Duterte.

The OVP has no line item for CF in the 2022 General Appropriations Act, with Duterte having just assumed office after the term of former vice president Leni Robredo.

“The 2022 budget for the OVP didn’t have an item for confidential funds. Zero, not even one peso. Hence there was no item to augment even if it can be legally sourced,” Pimentel said.

Another violation was that CFs are not allowed to be charged to the contingent fund, Pimentel said.

“The source of the money, the contingent fund, can only be used for three purposes and it cannot be used for confidential funds or to augment CF,” Pimentel said.

“From the basic facts alone there would be not less than two violations of budget laws and rules,” he added.

The Senate committee on finance approved on Monday the proposed P2.4-billion budget of the OVP for next year.

It also approved the P758.69-million budget of the Department of Education headed by Duterte, including its controversial P150- million confidential fund.


The Office of the Executive Secretary (OES) defended the transfer of P221.42-million confidential fund of the OP to the Vice President last year.?

In a statement, the OES said the release of the confidential fund was in compliance with Special Provision No. 1 as provided under the 2022 Contingent Fund, which authorizes the OP to approve fund releases to cover funding requirements of new or urgent activities that need to be implemented.?

The office of Duterte requested the OP to release P221.424 million for maintenance operating and other expenses items such as financial assistance/subsidy amounting to P96.424 million and confidential funds (for newly created satellite offices) in the amount of P125 million, the OES said.?

It said Marcos saw the need to release the fund to support Duterte’s initiative upon the recommendation of the Department of Budget and Management. — Marc Jayson Cayabyab, Sheila Crisostomo

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