Sara’s 2022 secret funds were from ‘contingent fund’–DBM
The Office of the President (OP) did not bypass Congress when it provided millions of pesos in confidential funds to the Office of the Vice President (OVP) in 2022, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) told the House of Representatives.
Rep. Elizaldy Co of Ako Bicol party list on Thursday said Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman wrote a letter to the House appropriations panel assuring lawmakers that the OP “didn’t subvert the House’s power over the purse” after releasing funds to Vice President Sara Duterte’s office.
Co, chair of the House committee on appropriations, said Pangandaman told him that the P125 million in confidential funds released to the OVP last year was sourced from the P7-billion contingent fund in the national budget for 2022.
Co’s office has yet to provide the media a copy of Pangandaman’s letter as of press time.
No line item
Pangandaman, according to Co, noted that the release was “intended to support the OVP’s Good Governance Engagements and Social Services Projects.”
Lawmakers from the opposition had questioned such allocation, pointing out that there was no line item in the OVP’s 2022 budget on confidential funds.
They cited a 2014 ruling by the Supreme Court which declared as “unconstitutional” the withdrawal of unobligated allotments from implementing agencies—declared as savings—then transferring these to offices to fund projects that were not covered by the General Appropriations Act for that particular fiscal year.
This act is tantamount to overstepping the power of Congress to appropriate public funds, they argued.
“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 [the] Contingent Fund under the FY 2022 and not from the budget of the OP,” Pangandaman said, as quoted by Co in his statement.
Co said that Pangandaman explained to the House appropriations panel that the use of contingent funds was not limited to a particular government agency or office, as it only prohibited its use for the purchase of motor vehicles.
“By its nature, she (Pangandaman) said, contingent funds are intended to be used for expenditures not anticipated during the preparation of the budget,” Co noted.
During the Senate committee on finance hearing last week on the OVP’s proposed 2024 budget of P2.3 billion, which includes confidential and intelligence funds of P500 million, Duterte confirmed requesting the controversial P125 million in confidential funds last year.
“We requested confidential funds to the Office of the President as early as August 2022 and we were only granted the confidential funds in December 2022,” she explained.
House Deputy Minority Leader and ACT Teachers party list Rep. France Castro earlier claimed that Duterte’s office spent the entire P125 million in just 19 days—from Dec. 13 to Dec. 31, 2022.
“This translates to P6,578,947.37 or almost P7 million per day,” Castro said.
Castro claimed that the funds were illegally realigned because the 2022 OVP budget, crafted during the term of former Vice President Leni Robredo, did not include a secret fund. INQ