Sara insists P125 million confidential funds spent in 19 days

Shiela Crisostomo - The Philippine Star
Sara insists P125 million confidential funds spent in 19 days
Vice President Sara Duterte-Carpio gives the keynote address during the "Tribute to soldiers" awards ceremony at The Manila Hotel, Rizal Park, Ermita in Manila on Aug. 28, 2023.
Inday Sara Duterte / Facebook

MANILA, Philippines — Vice President Sara Duterte yesterday defended her office’s spending of P125 million in confidential funds late last year, insisting that it was spent in 19 days.

During yesterday’s budget deliberations on the Office of the Vice President’s proposed P2.385-billion 2024 budget, the OVP’s budget sponsor Davao de Oro Rep. Maria Carmen Zamora said it is “inaccurate” to say that the OVP spent the P125 million fund in 11 days.

Marikina Rep. Stella Luz Quimbo revealed on Sept. 25 that the OVP spent P125 million in confidential funds in 11 days.

“The truth is, I was also surprised when I read the news that it seemed to have been spent in 19 days. I asked COA (Commission on Audit) and looked at various reports, but it was not spent in 19 days but in 11 days,” Quimbo said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Quimbo had previously defended the OVP’s confidential funds.

When it comes to auditing confidential and intelligence funds, state auditors could only depend on the transparent and accurate submissions of government agencies, making the funds difficult to audit.

Zamora noted that the implementation of programs started on the day that the Special Allotment Release Order (SARO) was released on Dec. 13, 2022.

“(This) means immediately after the release of SARO, the implementation has already started but the actual, as based on the COA report and findings, only started Dec. 20 up to Dec. 31 which means the actual implementation is not 11 days but it is 19 days,” she said.

During an interpellation by Kabataan party-list Rep. Raoul Manuel, Zamora said the OVP is requesting P500 million in confidential funds next year for the “safe implementation of its programs and activities.”

“The OVP aims to bring its programs to other areas and with a vision to target poverty reduction and threats to peace and order and achieve sustainable development and in support of these goals, surveillance activities will be undertaken, to assess security threats and ensure successful implementation of the projects,” she claimed.

But Manuel brushed this aside, arguing that the OVP’s programs are “redundant.”

“The proposal of OVP is not in line with the intent of the House. The programs they mentioned (such as) medical and burial assistance and food assistance are not directly related to the defense of the West Philippine Sea,” he explained.

Manuel said it would be “prudent for the House to reject the proposal of OVP for confidential funds.”

The OVP thanked Zamora after the House of Representatives terminated the deliberations on the OVP’s proposed P2.385-billion 2024 budget.

Meanwhile, Rep. Edcel Lagman said that President Marcos and Duterte may not be impeached despite the possibly “unconstitutional” transfer of contingent funds from Marcos’ office to the OVP.

The Office of the President earlier admitted transferring P125 million to the OVP in December 2022, but the OVP considered it as a confidential fund.

Lagman was responding to a reporter’s question, “unconstitutional but not impeachable?”

“When you say culpable, it is an extreme case of liability. It is flawed. It is invalid but it may not be a basis to say it was culpable violation of the Constitution. It is invalid,” he told reporters in a chance interview after plenary debates for the Department of Education’s proposed 2024 budget were terminated.

Culpability is a characterization required for impeachment. – Neil Jayson Servallos, Delon Porcalla

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