Sara Duterte calls criticisms vs secret fund lies; thanks backers
MANILA, Philippines — Vice President and concurrent Education Secretary Sara Duterte has again lambasted opposition leaders questioning her proposed confidential funds, calling these criticisms lies.
Her fury was particularly directed at Senator Risa Hontiveros and ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro, who both condemned the secret funds for the Office of the Vice President (OVP) and Department of Education (DepEd) totaling P650 million.
“Senator Risa Hontiveros, while she amuses the nation with her flair for drama, could only wish the 2022 OVP [confidential fund] was accessed illegally. It’s a shame they still cannot produce any proof to support their dirty imagination,” Duterte said in a statement Monday.
“The indignity they have caused Congress and the Senate should be enough for us not to give them serious attention,” she added.
Duterte, however, thanked her allies in Congress for defending the OVP’s request for confidential funds.
“Thank you to Rep. Stella Quimbo of the Second District of Marikina for bravely and rationally facing a gang of individuals who had successfully mastered the art of fabricating lies,” she continued.
“These efforts are genuinely appreciated because they help counter the lies told by Rep. France Castro and the Makabayan bloc in Congress on the 2022 OVP [confidential fund],” Duterte also said.
Castro and Duterte had traded barbs over the contentious secret fund for the OVP, with the former questioning its legality.
Notably, Senate Minority leader Aquilino Pimentel, who also questioned the confidential funds, was not mentioned in Duterte’s statement.
Aside from Quimbo, Duterte thanked President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin, and Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro for supporting OVP’s bid for secret funds.
“I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and to several officials of the Marcos administration who stood by the Office of the Vice President as it faced the storm of attacks on the 2022 Confidential Fund,” said Duterte.
Reporters however, persisted in asking the OVP for clearer and more detailed information regarding the secret funds.
In a separate statement, Duterte opted to respond only to Castro once more, saying that most of her criticisms were assumptions.
“This is a personal conclusion by Ms. Castro,” said Duterte regarding the sudden appearance of P125 million confidential funds in the OVP’s budget when there was no prior allotment for this.
Duterte also said that Castro had legal opinions on the matter, but is not a lawyer.
The media however, pointed out that critics of the confidential funds included the likes of Pimentel and former Senate President Franklin Drilon, who are lawyers.
Duterte’s requested confidential funds for both the OVP (P500 million) and the Department of Education (P150 million) for 2024 were met with intense opposition, with minority leaders from both chambers of Congress contesting its necessity.
Castro said the 2022 OVP budget crafted by former Vice President Leni Robredo had no confidential funds among its line items. But when Duterte took over the office in June 2022, the OVP somehow obtained and spent P125 million confidential funds, she noted.
Hontiveros, on the other hand, challenged the huge confidential funds for the offices being held by Duterte as it even outweighed the combined secret funds of the country’s top security agencies.