VP accused of spending P125 million in confidential funds in 19 days
Did Vice President Sara Duterte spend P125 million on confidential expenses in just 19 days?
House Deputy Minority Leader France Castro posed this question on Monday, days before the Office of the Vice President (OVP) was set to present its P2.374 billion proposed funding for 2024.
“The OVP spent the whole P125-million confidential fund given to the office in a span of just 19 days, from Dec. 13 to Dec. 31, 2022. This translates to P6,578,947.37 or almost P7 million per day,” Castro said in a statement.
She cited a special allotment release order (Saro) issued by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) on Dec. 13, 2022, pertaining to confidential expenses.
The 2022 Saro-BMB-C-22-0012004 for the OVP was in the amount of P221,424 “to cover financial assistance/subsidy and confidential fund.”
The Saro indicated that the Office of the President approved the release on Nov. 28, 2022.
Castro also pointed to the Commission on Audit’s (COA) 2022 audit report on the OVP, which said this amount was composed of P125 million in confidential expenses and P96.424 million for medical assistance.”
In the OVP’s statement of appropriations, allotments, obligations, disbursements, and balances (SAAODB) as of the end of 2022, the OVP told the COA that it obligated and disbursed P155 million, with P66.424 million as the remaining unobligated allotment.
In the OVP’s SAAODB as of June 30, 2023, the P66.424 million was also reported under “contingent fund: financial assistance/subsidy-others.”
“This implies that P125 million in confidential funds was already spent by Dec. 31, 2022, along with P30 million of the financial assistance, for a total of P155 million,” Castro said.
She said guidelines on the use of confidential funds limit the expenses to “surveillance-related activities such as purchase of information, rental of transport vehicles, rental and maintenance of safe houses, purchase or rental of supplies, material and equipment, payment of rewards to informers, and uncovering or prevention of certain illegal activities.”
No congressional authorization
The OVP is a civilian agency with no national defense or law enforcement function.
“We are curious as to how the OVP spent a huge amount in a short amount of time … How did they spend this big amount, which should not be considered confidential funds? It should not be kept secret because the OVP did not get congressional authorization for this in 2022,” Castro said.
Last week, the Makabayan solon flagged the OVP’s P125 million in confidential expenses for 2022 despite not having any appropriation for it in the 2022 General Appropriations Act.
She warned that the OVP may be held liable for violating provisions of the Constitution and the Revised Penal Code that require expenses to have corresponding appropriations in the national budget.
Castro pressed Duterte to explain how she incurred the expenses and called on the DBM and the Office of the President to explain the release of the funds.
She said the three-member bloc was mulling the filing of an impeachment complaint against Duterte but said it would wait for COA’s findings on the P125-million confidential expenses first.