Sara Duterte undaunted by attacks against her secret funds
Eager to put the past weeks behind her, Vice President Sara Duterte expressed hope that the criticisms over the lack of transparency in her request and use of confidential funds would “eventually lose its charm,” while deflecting questions about her use of public money by saying Alliance of Concerned Teachers Rep. France Castro and Sen. Risa Hontiveros were being dramatic.
On Monday, Duterte thanked President Marcos, Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin, and Marikina Rep. Stella Quimbo for defending how her office got P125 million in confidential and intelligence funds (CIF) when there was no line item for it under the 2022 General Appropriations Act.
Several experts, including the Makabayan bloc, former Senate President Franklin Drilon, and former lawmakers Barry Gutierrez and Neri Colmenares, have pointed out that it was unconstitutional to realign funds to nonexistent budgetary items, more so without prior approval of Congress.
But instead of answering squarely, Duterte said only she believed “the lies they peddled to the public will eventually lose their charm and the Office of the Vice President (OVP) and the Department of Education (DepEd) will persist and be vindicated.”
‘Flair for drama’
She also came after Hontiveros, who interrogated her during the OVP budget deliberations last week and whom she said “amuses the nation with her flair for drama, could only wish the 2022 OVP CIF was accessed illegally.”
“It’s a shame they still cannot produce any proof to support their dirty imagination,” she added.
Duterte said the arguments on the unconstitutionality of the CIF were “a legal opinion of Ms Castro, who is not a lawyer/auditor.”
Castro, who has butted heads with Duterte over her policies at DepEd, led the charge in interrogating the OVP’s confidential funds after discovering that they were spent in just 19 days last year.
Hontiveros, for her part, on Monday reminded Duterte that she is “not special.”
“Given the significant responsibility of government officials, I demand a shred of competence when it comes to fiscal matters—like any Filipino taxpayer,” Hontiveros said in a statement.
Contrary to the Vice President’s claim that the senator was just “amusing” the public with her “flair for drama,” Hontiveros said she was just doing her job to scrutinize the spending plans of the OVP like all other state agencies.
Secret funds for DMW
“No drama. We just work hard,” she said.
Amid the controversy over confidential funds, Sen. Raffy Tulfo on Monday sought P25 million in secret funds for the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) to fund its covert operations.
The DMW has requested a budget of P15.5 billion for 2024.
The proposal, however, was met with opposition by some of his colleagues, including Sen. JV Ejercito, who said it would be better to just strengthen the DMW’s existing programs to combat human trafficking.
Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III and Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva also expressed their reservations over Tulfo’s suggestion. INQ