OVP budget sponsor: Sara Duterte defers to House decision on P500M confidential funds
MANILA, Philippines — After lawmakers questioned the rationale behind it during plenary debates, Vice President Sara Duterte is willing to allow the House of Representatives majority to decide on the retention or removal of the proposed P500 million confidential funds for her office.
This was revealed by Davao de Oro 1st District Rep. Maria Carmen Zamora, the sponsor of the Office of the Vice President’s (OVP) budget during the deliberations on the 2023 National Expenditure Program Thursday.
Duterte, who was present at the deliberation, conveyed this to Zamora after Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman pressed on why the OVP intends to have confidential funds when surveillance is not part of its mandate.
“Now our understanding is that the Honorable Vice President is not willing to forego not even a single centavo of the P500 million confidential fund allocated in her office,” Lagman said.
“Mr. Speaker if I may, your Honor, the Honorable Vice President has just shared it with me now that she’s saying, she defers to the decision of the majority of this honorable Congress,” Zamora said.
“Thank you so much for that commitment, Mr. Speaker, distinguished Sponsor, and thank you very much to the Vice President,” Lagman replied.
During the debates, Lagman asked Zamora as to whether past vice presidents — from Salvador Laurel, Joseph Estrada, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Teofisto Guingona, Noli de Castro, Jejomar Binay, and Leni Robredo — got confidential funds for their respective offices.
Zamora initially said there were none, but later clarified that some offices got confidential funds. Lagman however noted that these were minuscule amounts.
“The vice presidents then, before martial law, during martial law, and after martial law did not enjoy the allocation of confidential funds, and they did not ask for the appropriation of confidential funds. Is this correct?” Lagman asked.
“Mr. Speaker, your Honor, I stand corrected, in 2009 there was a confidential fund of P6 million, in 2010 there was an allocation of confidential funds amounting to P3 million, in 2011 there was a confidential fund amounting to P6 million, and in 2012 there was a confidential fund amounted to P9 million,” Zamora replied.
“Yes that is correct, and these are minuscule amounts, compared to P500 million,” Lagman answered back.
When asked by the Albay lawmaker as to why there is a huge difference in the magnitude of confidential funds allocated to Duterte’s OVP, Zamora said the Vice President seeks to complement the Office of the President (OP) in implementing its programs.
“The Vice President, being a former local chief executive of the City of Davao, who is a staunch supporter of advocacy on peace and order and national security, deemed it proper to be a complimenting partner with the Office of the President in assuring that all of the President’s program will be implemented based also on the perspective of ensuring of a peaceful and secure nation,” she said.
“And it is the intention of the Honorable Vice President to implement her programs using these confidential funds to assist and help all agencies in ensuring and achieving national security in the country,” she added.
Lagman noted however that the OP already has a P4.5 billion confidential fund in its proposed budget.
Towards the end of his interpellation, Lagman assured the House that he asked these questions not to disrespect Duterte, but to enlighten Congress about the issue.
“I am making this interpellation for the enlightenment of the members of the House, and not in disrespect of the second-highest official who was popularly elected […] But in the same token, the Office of the Vice President must heed the popular clamor on the reduction of her budget which is excessively huge compared to the previous budgets of the former vice presidents, particularly on the allocation of a P500 million confidential fund,” he noted.
Aside from the confidential funds, the OVP is also asking for a huge budget.
The House committee on appropriations, as courtesy to Duterte who was present during the per-agency budget briefings, also terminated its deliberations in just around 7 minutes, after noting that questions will be raised at the plenary level.
However, OVP officials and Duterte herself defended the allocations, saying the OVP and the Department of Education which she also heads, have a direct link to national security issues.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.