Party-list solon to COA: Probe VP Sara’s P125-M confidential funds in 2022
MANILA, Philippines — A lawmaker has asked the Commission on Audit (COA) to investigate the presence of confidential funds (CF) in the Office of the Vice President (OVP) report for 2022 — under incumbent Vice President Sara Duterte — as the budget given to the same office under Leni Robredo did not have any.
At the deliberations of COA’s proposed budget for 2024, ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro pointed out that when the 2022 budget was crafted, OVP — then under vice president Robredo — had no CF.
Robredo’s term expired the morning of June 30, while Duterte — who won in the 2022 national elections along with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. — started her term in the afternoon of the same day. This means while Duterte was vice president from July to December 2022, the office’s budget was crafted and submitted by Robredo’s OVP.
Hence, Castro believes the presence of the CF on OVP’s later reports indicates that existing OVP funds for 2022 were realigned to a confidential component.
“Napansin ko po no’ng 2022, merong confidential fund yung OVP na P125 million. This is 2022 — tama po ba? Tama po ba yung aking information?” Castro asked, which COA Chairperson Gamaliel Cordoba confirmed.
(I’ve observed that for 2022, the OVP has a confidential fund worth P125 million. This is 2022 — is that correct? Is my information correct?)
“So nakalagay ‘yan do’n sa GAA (General Appropriations Act) 2022, tama po? So inimbestigahan po ba ng COA or may report po ba ang OVP that time, dito sa P125 million na confidential fund?” Castro added.
(So it was placed on the GAA for 2022, right? Is the COA investigating this or has the OVP submitted a report on the P125 million na confidential fund?)
Cordoba in response said that OVP under Duterte has submitted compliance reports and liquidation reports — and that COA is currently evaluating these.
However, Castro believes that this issue merits an investigation because it appears to have been realigned to a non-existent item in the 2022 national budget or the GAA.
“Well sa amin pong nakita wala ito sa GAA 2022. Pero parang ni-realign lang ito. So pwede bang imbestigahan at bakit ito na-realign, kasi gano’n po ‘yong observation namin eh,” Castro said.
(Well in our observation it is not in the GAA for 2022. It seems to us that it was merely realigned. So can you investigate why it was realigned, because that is our observation.)
“No’ng panahon ng 2022, so hindi pa po, sa isang taon po ito, parang naghati (sa term) ang dalawang vice president dito, so gusto natin makita po yung report, ‘yong recommendations niyo o nadisallow ba ito,” she added. “Kasi parang na-realign ito. So can you investigate on this kasi wala po ito talaga sa 2022 GAA.”
(In 2022, so it is not yet a full year for the current OVP since two vice presidents shared the year. So we want to see a report — was this disallowed? Because it seems to be a realigned item. So can you investigate this because it is not present in the 2022 GAA.)
“Yes your honors we will check that po,” Cordoba answered.
Earlier this year, the OVP released reports on their budget utilization for 2022, amid questions from the media about the confidential funds it spent. In a message to reporters, the OVP sent a screenshot of a budget sheet’s portion called “Summary of appropriations, obligations, disbursements, and balances by object of expenditures,” which detailed expenses such as personnel expenses and travel spendings.
However, a portion of the budget that the OVP gave was blotted out. Eventually, OVP clarified that it had meant to highlight the portion of the confidential fund, and not block it.
The highlighted portion showed a provision under “Special Purpose Funds”. Under the said category is a sub-category of “Contingent Fund,” which contains Confidential Expenses amounting to P125 million.
In a separate message, Atty. Barry Gutierrez, former OVP spokesperson, said that OVP under Robredo never had any confidential fund from 2016 to 2022.
“Walang confidential funds buong term ni VP Leni [No confidential funds during the whole term of VP Leni]. Even 2022. We never requested for any,” Gutierrez said.
The said budget for 2022 was crafted by the Department of Budget and Management under Duterte’s father, former president Rodrigo Duterte.