DBM says OVP’s 2022 confidential funds technically not a fund transfer — Co
MANILA, Philippines — The confidential fund allocation in the 2022 budget of the Office of the Vice President (OVP) is technically not a fund transfer contrary to what was initially depicted, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said in a letter to Ako Bicol Rep. Elizaldy Co.
In a statement on Thursday, Co who heads the House committee on appropriations, said that Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman sent a letter to the panel to explain the supposed fund transfer from the Office of the President (OP) to OVP.
According to portions of the letter cited by Co’s office, “the P125 million released to the [OVP] came from the P7 billion budget set aside as Contingent Fund for 2022, and was intended to support the OVP’s Good Governance Engagements and Social Services Projects.”
“While it is understandable that, at the outset, the release of funds to the OVP may be perceived as a transfer, the same was not technically so, for such release was funded from Contingent Fund under the FY 2022 GAA and not from the budget of the OP,” Pangandaman said in her letter to Co.
Discussions during the budget season initially showed that OVP, under Vice President Sara Duterte, requested for confidential funds from the OP. Makabayan bloc members who were responsible for bringing up the issue questioned the transfer, as the 2022 budget of OVP crafted during the time of former vice president Leni Robredo did not have allocations for such funds.
This statement from Pangandaman, as relayed by Co, confirms initial statements that the P125 million confidential funds within OVP for 2022 was “sourced from the Contingent Fund under last year’s General Appropriations Act approved by Congress”.
However, it now appears that these contingent funds were really meant for the OVP to use — and not from OP — which according to Pangandaman means it was not a fund transfer.
“(The release of funds to Vice President Duterte’s office) was not an augmentation or transfer of funds from the Office of the President,” Pangandaman added.
Co’s office then noted that it appears the transfer does not go against the Supreme Court ruling in the Araullo versus Aquino case, where the act of withdrawing unobligated allotments from implementing agencies in the guise of these being savings before transferring it to other offices was declared unconstitutional.
“The budget chief also noted that the use of contingent fund isn’t limited to a particular agency or office and only prohibits its use for the purchase of motor vehicles. By its nature, she said, contingent funds are intended to be used for expenditures not anticipated during the preparation of the budget.
Reporters covering the House of Representatives have asked Co’s office for a copy of the letter from Pangandaman, but they have not responded yet as of posting time.
Aside from the clarification, Co also said that DBM had supposedly assured the House that its power to appropriate funds to the government was not affected or undermined when OVP got confidential funds in 2022.
Discussions regarding the OVP’s confidential funds have heated up in both the House and the Senate, with Makabayan lawmakers particularly ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro insisting that Duterte’s request for confidential funds was illegal.
However, Duterte maintained that Castro is only expressing her opinion, maintaining that the lawmaker is neither a state auditor nor a lawyer.