Castro: Quimbo spreading misinformation by claiming secret funds existed for OVP in 2022
MANILA, Philippines — ACT Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro has accused Marikina 2nd District Rep. Stella Quimbo of spreading misinformation when the latter claimed that a line item for confidential funds existed in the 2022 budget of the Office of the Vice President (OVP).
Castro said this on Friday at the Makabayan bloc’s virtual press briefing, reacting to Quimbo’s statements about the issue in a previous interview.
The Makabayan bloc has been calling out the OVP and Vice President Sara Duterte for requesting — and eventually receiving — P125 million worth of confidential funds in 2022, even if the agency’s budget crafted under former Vice President Leni Robredo did not contain any secret funding.
“So first of all, I was shocked that it seems misinformation is being spread — with due respect to our colleague — she is spreading misinformation about the confidential fund that there is a line item at the GAA [General Appropriations Act] 2022,” Castro said in Filipino, referring to Quimbo who is the senior vice chairperson of the Committee on appropriations.
“So we beg to disagree. If we say line item, this means there is an expressly provided budget allocation. Okay, so there is an amount. You cannot say that it’s a zero funding because that means it’s non-existent although it is under the category of confidential, intelligence, extraordinary expenses, but there is really no confidential fund under OVP for 2022,” Castro added.
Castro was referring to Quimbo’s statements in a previous interview with ABS-CBN News Channel where the latter said that line items for “confidential and intelligence funds already existed in 2022, but the amount was zero” — noting that the title existed but it was just unfunded.
According to the Makabayan lawmaker, the non-existence of an allocation for confidential purposes in the 2022 OVP budget means the said agency could not have confidential funding in that specific year.
“That’s why OVP is not entitled to a confidential fund because this should be expressly provided for or be an expressed budget allocation. So like I said, we don’t agree with what Cong. Stella said about this, with her spreading — I’m sorry for the term — misinformation to our people,” Castro explained.
“So you are only entitled to use confidential funds if it is an expressly provided for allocation in the GAA. So it is unlawful for the OVP to use its confidential fund which came from the contingency fund ng OP,” she said.
But Quimbo in a statement on Friday night said she takes exception to Castro’s claims, insisting that such transfers have been done before.
“I take strong exception to the accusation of spreading misinformation. It is clear under current budget rules that a transfer from Special Purpose Funds, such as Contingent Funds, to an existing budgetary item is expressly allowed, whether the item has zero allocation or not,” Quimbo said.
“This is not a new practice. Such has been happening in past administrations. And it is always reported in the National Expenditure Program (NEP) when it is sent to Congress. You’ll see these transfers for Contingent Funds on page 1000, Volume III of the 2024 NEP,” she added.
However, several observers including former officials from the OVP’s past administration maintained that they did not place any funding for confidential funds.
“Okay, para malinaw (Just to be clear). This is the relevant portion of the 2022 GAA OVP budget. Confi, Intel, and Extraordinary Expenses is the account category HEADING. The only ITEM under it is for Extraordinary and Misc Expenses with an allocation of 620,000,” former lawmaker and ex-OVP spokesperson Barry Gutierrez said in a tweet.
“There is NO item for CI (Confidential and Intelligence) Expenses,” he added.
Okay, para malinaw.
This is the relevant portion of the 2022 GAA OVP budget. Confi, Intel, and Extraordinary Expenses is the account category HEADING. The only ITEM under it is for Extraordinary and Misc Expenses with an allocation of 620,000.
There is NO item for CI Expenses. pic.twitter.com/kSZ33K9mo4
— Barry Gutierrez (@barrygutierrez3) September 8, 2023
Last August 30, during the deliberations of the OVP’s budget before the committee on appropriations, Makabayan lawmakers objected to the quick termination of discussions, claiming that the panel was just shielding Vice President Duterte.
Makabayan said they wanted to ask Duterte about the existence of confidential expenses in the 2022 budget, despite no allocation being set aside for this purpose. Prior to this, Castro and other Makabayan solons said they were mulling over filing an impeachment complaint against VP Duterte over this issue.
However, Duterte said that an investigation from the Commission on Audit would show that she had done nothing wrong.
Eventually, during the Senate hearing on OVP’s budget, Duterte admitted the existence of the confidential funds, saying that they requested it from the Office of the President.