Makabayan bloc vows to question Sara Duterte over confidential fund use
MANILA, Philippines — The Makabayan bloc would assert that Vice President Sara Duterte and the Office of the Vice President (OVP) be questioned over the controversial use of confidential funds when the agency’s proposed budget is deliberated, ACT Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro said.
Castro said this in a text message relayed by her office on Tuesday, adding that they hope Duterte would answer the lingering questions when the House Committee on appropriations tackles the proposed budget of OVP on Wednesday morning.
“Yes, we intend to question the OVP on their 2022 confidential funds, and we hope that Vice President Sara Duterte will answer our queries,” Castro said.
“We will also assert that the OVP should be questioned or interpellated tomorrow because it is our duty as congresspersons and we owe it to the Filipino taxpayers to do so, especially since our questions relate to a substantial amount of unauthorized Confidential Expenses incurred by her office in 2022,” she added.
Traditionally, the House terminates deliberations on the Office of the President and OVP’s proposed budgets within minutes out of courtesy to the two highest leaders of the land. However, opposition lawmakers like Castro have complained about the supposed servility in the past — as leaders are shielded from questioning.
Castro’s latest statements came after OVP’s confidential expenses in 2022 were questioned last Thursday, as the original budget — crafted under former vice president Leni Robredo’s tenure — contained no confidential funds.
This led Castro to speculate that funds for another item in OVP’s 2022 budget were realigned illegally for confidential purposes.
“As it is, Vice President Duterte should answer all these questions at the budget hearing of the OVP tomorrow. The OVP had no Congressional authorization to incur confidential expenses in 2022,” Castro said.
“A full accounting should be made down to the last centavo,” she added.
The issue with the confidential expenses was unearthed when Castro asked the Commission on Audit (COA) about it during the deliberations on COA’s proposed budget for 2024. After that, Castro said that they were studying the possibility of filing impeachment complaints against Duterte — to which the Vice President responded by saying that a COA investigation would address the allegations.
Then on Monday, Castro said that OVP supposedly spent its P125 confidential funds for 2022 in just 19 days — adding that the said confidential fund is bigger than that of the National Security Council, which got P120 million, and the Bureau of Customs had P100 million.
“For example, the 2024 proposed budget for confidential funds of the National Security Council (NSC) is P120 million and that of the Bureau of Customs (BoC) is P100 million,” Castro said.
“Even in 2022, the whole year budget of the NSC was P182 million while the BoC was P69.5 million and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) was P185.4 million. While these agencies used their confidential funds for the whole year, the OVP used up P125 million in just 19 days! Does it have its own surveillance agency that gobbles up money that fast?” she asked.