Second petition vs confidential funds reaches SC

Ian Laqui - Philstar.com
Second petition vs confidential funds reaches SC
This photo shows lawyer Howard Calleja, former Commission on Audit Commissioner Heidi Mendoza, Fr. Robert Reyes and several law students at the Supreme Court on Nov. 15, 2023.
Philstar.com / Ian Laqui

MANILA, Philippines — Another petition questioning the constitutionality of the confidential and intelligence funds reached the Supreme Court on Wednesday..

The petitioners filed a petition for certiorari and mandamus before the SC wherein they also asked to nullify Executive Order (EO) No. 2 and the Commission on Audit Joint Circular 2015-01 which allows the use, transfer and disbursement of the confidential funds. 

Petitioners argued that the allocation and the release of confidential funds are unconstitutional as it violates Section 28 Article II of the Constitution which refers to the public disclosure of transactions involving public interest.

“There is no law that exempts full public disclosure and the people’s right to have access to information, official records, public records and to documents and papers pertaining to the Confidential Funds. Significantly, there is no showing that OVP’s (Office of the Vice President) conduct falls under any of the exceptions provided for under the aforementioned EO or any relevant laws,” the petition read. 

According to the petitioners, this also violates the constitutional right of the people to information said in Article 3 Section 7. 

Executive Order No. 2, issued during the time of Vice President Sara Duterte's father, requires full public disclosure of all offices in the executive branch.

However, Duterte used the E.O. and the joint circular to not disclose how the CIF was spent and utilized, according to the petitioners. 

“To reiterate, the Executive Branch which issued E.O. No.2 (S. 2016) and the Joint Circular Circular were not delegated of any legislative power by the Congress to create guidelines on the disbursement and liquidation of the Confidential Funds, and as result threatened Petitioners’ and the public’s right to information on matters of public concern and violated the “full disclosure” mandate of the Constitution,” the petition read. 

However, retired Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said that the E.O. and the Joint Circular are not laws that affirm the secrecy of the CIF.

“The constitution requires a law, not an EO, so if the EO is struck down because it’s not the EO required, the disbursement of the money is like any disbursement of public funds. It will open to public scrutiny,” he said in a press conference.

The said argument is also mentioned in the petition. 

“There is no reason for Respondents to deny Petitioners of their requested documents pertaining to the Confidential Funds because at present, there is NO LAW that exempts full public disclosure of all government transactions that involve taxpayers’ matter. Hence, the general rule of public disclosure must apply,” the petition read. 

Among the petitioners include former Supreme Court senior associate justice Antonio Carpio, former senator Richard Gordon, lawyers Howard and JP Calleja, some law students and five priests.

The petitioners were joined by former Commission on Audit Commissioner Heidi Mendoza, but she was not named as a petitioner for the mentioned memorandum circular was issued during her tenure. 

This is the second petition in relation to the controversial CIF that has reached the Supreme Court.

On November 11, petitioners led by Constitutional framer Christian Monsod and Lawyer Barry Gutierrez assailed the constitutionality of the transfer of the Office of the President’s contingency fund to the OVP’s confidential fund amounting to P125 million.

The OVP on November 9 withdrew its request of P650 million worth of confidential funds in the proposed budget for the next year.

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