OVP confidential funds still illegal, constitutional violation – lawyer
MANILA, Philippines — The Office of the Vice President’s (OVP) admission that it received confidential funds (CF) last year despite the complete absence of its allocation in the 2022 General Appropriations Act was met with chagrin by critics who called it a violation of the 1987 Constitution.
Among them was lawyer Barry Gutierrez, former OVP spokesperson and longtime aide to former Vice President Leni Robredo.
“This is clear as day: this is a violation of the Constitution,” he said. “What now? Are we to just move on from this?”
Last Wednesday, Vice President Sara Duterte admitted to senators that her office received over P221 million in confidential funds from the Office of the President (OP) in December 2022, a budget entry that did not exist in the approved national spending program for that year.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros immediately flagged the OP’s decision to funnel the amount to the OVP as it violated the constitutional prohibition against the allotment of public funds without the approval of Congress.
“The unconstitutionality lies in the fact that what was ‘augmented’ was a nonexistent appropriation item. There was no allocation for CF in the OVP’s 2022 budget. As such, there was nothing to augment, and so the transfer was unconstitutional,” Gutierrez explained.
Duterte, meanwhile, said only the Department of Budget and Management could better answer the question on the transfer of funds but that they have “nevertheless complied with the reportorial requirements for the use of funds as confidential funds.”
Duterte herself said her office “can live without confidential funds but of course our work will be much easier if we have the flexibility.”
“If she is sincere about this, OVP can formally tell Congress that they are withdrawing their request for confidential funds in the 2024 budget. The previous VP was able to serve effectively without CF after all,” Gutierrez challenged Duterte.
Hontiveros also expressed concern over Duterte’s admission that the Department of Education has been monitoring their own personnel and students.