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Sara Duterte asked to respond to petition assailing P125 million confidential fund transfer

Ian Laqui - Philstar.com
Sara Duterte asked to respond to petition assailing P125 million confidential fund transfer
This photo taken on November 9, 2021 shows Sara Duterte (L), mayor and daughter of outgoing Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, posing for a selfie with city hall employees in Davao city, on the southern island of Mindanao.
AFP / Manman Dejeto

MANILA, Philippines — Vice President Sara Duterte and other government officials were required to comment by the Supreme Court (SC) on a petition assailing the constitutionality of the transfer of the P125 million from the Office of the President’s contingency fund to the Office of the Vice President’s (OVP) confidential and intelligence funds (CIFs) in 2022.

In a two-page notice, the SC En Banc ordered Duterte, Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin and the Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman to file their comment within 10 days from receipt of notice without giving due course to the petition.

An order to comment is part of the high court’s procedures in handling cases or petitions.

The petitioners, composed of lawyers and concerned citizens, last November 7 asked the SC to declare the fund transfer "unconstitutional." They said that the authority to transfer funds from the national budget to the OVP can only be done with the legislative department having the “power of the purse,” by creating a budget item dedicated to the CIF. 

“The executive department has no discretion to create another budget item,” Lawyer Ray Paolo Santiago said in a press conference on November 7. 

The confidential funds, amounting to  P125 million, was spent by the OVP in 11 days in December 2022, according to a report of the Commission on Audit. Duterte's camp insisted that she spent it in 19 days. 

The OVP’s budget sponsor Rep. Maria Carmen Zamora (Davao de Oro, 1st District) said 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,” the lawmaker said.

'Return confidential funds'

Apart from seeking a decision on the legality of the transfer, the petitioners also asked the SC to instruct the OVP to return the disputed amount to the national treasury.

The petitioners include former Commission on Elections chairman Augusto Lagman, Constitution framer Christian Monsod, former Department of Finance Undersecretary Maria Cielo Magno, Chairperson of the Commission on Filipinos Overseas Imelda Nicolas, Lawyer Ibarra Gutierrez III, Katrina Monsod, Ray Paolo Santiago, Honorio Poblador III, Vicente Romano III, Rex Drilon and Miguel Jugo.

Meanwhile, On October 10, the House Committee on Appropriations reallocated the CIFs from four government agencies, including the Department of Education under Duterte's leadership and the OVP, to agencies tasked to protect the West Philippine Sea.

By November 9, the OVP retracted its appeal to receive P650 million in confidential funds from the upcoming 2024 national budget.

The petition, assailing the transfer to OVP's confidential funds, was the first plea that has reached the SC.

On November 15, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, with several priests, lawyers, and law students filed another petition seeking to nullify the order and circular that covers the release of the CIF.

vuukle comment

AMENAH PANGANDAMAN

CONFIDENTIAL FUNDS

LUCAS BERSAMIN

NATIONAL BUDGET 2024

OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT

OFFICE OF THE VICE PRESIDENT

OVP

SARA DUTERTE

SUPREME COURT

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