COA: Davao City tops CF spending during Sara term

Elizabeth Marcelo - The Philippine Star
COA: Davao City tops CF spending during Sara term
Vice President Sara Duterte on September 4, 2023
STAR / Mong Pintolo

MANILA, Philippines — Davao City appears to be the biggest spender of confidential funds among the country’s cities and municipalities between 2016 and 2022 when it was still under mayor Sara Duterte, who is now the Vice President, Commission on Audit (COA) records showed.

A review of COA’s annual audit reports (AARs) on Davao City showed a total of P2.697 billion in confidential expenses from 2016 to 2022, way higher than the CF spending of other larger and wealthier local government units (LGUs) such as Cebu City, Quezon City, Manila and Makati City during the same period.

The COA report showed that Davao City’s confidential expenses more than doubled after Duterte assumed the mayoralty post from her father, former president Rodrigo Duterte.

Davao City’s confidential expenses soared to P293 million in 2017 during the first full term of the younger Duterte as mayor, an increase of 103.5 percent from P144 million in 2016.

Duterte officially assumed office as Davao City mayor on June 30, 2016. The city’s confidential expenses ballooned further to P420 million in 2018, then to P460 million yearly from 2019 to 2022.

Her brother Sebastian succeeded her as Davao City mayor after the May 9, 2022 elections, when she won as vice president.

A review of the COA report on Cebu City, considered the wealthiest city in the Visayas region, showed that it only incurred a total of P13.3 million in CF expenses in the past seven years.

Records showed that Cebu City had no CF spending in 2016, 2018, 2019 and 2020. It incurred P504,834.15 in confidential expenses in 2017, P5.42 million in 2021 and P7.38 million as “payment for confidential, intelligence and extraordinary expenses” in 2022.

Zero CF for Quezon City

Quezon City, hailed as the country’s richest city since 2020, had a total of P435 million in CF expenses in the past seven years.

The audit records showed that Quezon City had zero CF expenses in 2016 and 2017, P80 million in 2018 and in 2019, P100 million in 2020 and 2021 and P75 million in 2022.

Makati City, the second richest city in the country, had a total of P1.249 billion in CF expenses for the same comparative years.

From zero confidential expenses in 2016, Makati City incurred P186.666 million in CF expenses in 2017, P225 million in 2018, P180 million in 2019, P177.75 million in 2020 and P240 million both in 2021 and 2022.

The country’s third richest city, Manila, meanwhile, had a total of P477.5 million in CF expenses and P77.48 million in intelligence expenses from 2016 to 2022.

The audit record showed that it had no CF expenses in 2016 and 2017, although it incurred P52.5 million in intelligence fund expenses in 2017.

In 2018, Manila had P53.75 million in confidential expenses and P24.98 million in intelligence expenses.

It incurred P78.75 million in confidential expenses in 2019, P105 million in 2020 and P120 million in 2021 and 2022. No intelligence expenses were recorded in these years.

COA’s AARs on local government units (LGUs) and national government agencies (NGAs) can be downloaded from the COA website.

The confidential expenses were included in the breakdown of the LGU’s annual Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE). The MOOE breakdown can be found under the Notes to Financial Statement section of COA’s AARs.

It was not stated in the audit reports where exactly LGUs sourced their confidential expenses.

P2K fine

Meanwhile, a former mayor of Del Carmen in Surigao del Norte was fined a measly P2,000 for his two criminal cases that stemmed from his failure to liquidate cash advances totaling P3 million in 2010, drawn from the municipal government’s intelligence funds.

At a hearing on Sept. 25, the Sandiganbayan Fourth Division allowed former Del Carmen mayor Constantino Navarro IV to plead guilty to two counts of a lesser offense of violation of Presidential Decree (PD) 1445 or the Government Auditing Code in exchange for the dropping of two counts of the heavier offense of Failure to Render Accounts under Article 218 of the Revised Penal Code.

The court noted that the prosecution panel of the Office of the Ombudsman, on behalf of the offended party, the Del Carmen municipal government, gave its consent to Navarro’s request to plead guilty to a lesser offense.

The court also noted that as confirmed by the prosecution, Navarro had already “settled” his civil liability with the municipal government. The amount of civil liability was not stated in the decision.

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