DBM, Palace, VP Duterte differ on use of secret funds – Bayan Muna
MANILA, Philippines — The explanation of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) on the funding of Vice President Sara Duterte’s confidential expenses only placed President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Duterte in “deeper trouble” due to conflicting claims, Bayan Muna chair Neri Colmenares said on Sunday.
In a statement posted on Bayan Muna’s official social media accounts, the former lawmaker said the DBM’s clarification that the release of funds was intended for existing projects was contrary to the admission of Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin the money was spent for new programs.
On Sept. 5, Bersamin said Marcos approved the P221-million fund that was released for the maintenance and other operating expenses of the Office of the Vice President (OVP).
A total of P96.424 million was allocated for financial assistance while P125 million was for confidential funds for “newly created satellite offices.”
Neri Colmenares pointed out this was contrary to the recent explanation of the DBM that the P125 million was for additional funding for the existing Good Governance Program of the OVP, and her various engagements in international and domestic events.
‘For national security’
“This also conflicts with the admission of VP Duterte herself that the confidential funds were for ‘national security.’ She never mentioned travels as expenses for her confidential funds,” Colmenares said.
Colmenares added that based on Section 38 of the 2022 General Appropriation Act (GAA), a contingent fund provides for the “travels of the President of the Philippines” but not for the travels of the Vice President.
The 2022 GAA budget for the OVP also already included a travel expense item for P25 million, a representation expense for P19 million, and a good governance program for P621 million.
“[Marcos] should have released his contingent fund directly to these existing programs, which are regularly audited, instead of transferring it to VP Duterte’s confidential fund which is not regularly audited and not an existing item in the GAA,” Colmenares said.
According to the former lawmaker, public officials must not transfer an auditable budget item like the contingent fund to an “amorphous confidential fund as this shrouds these funds from regular auditing thereby fueling irregularities and corruption.”
“There are now three conflicting explanations for the mysterious confidential funds of VP Duterte … whose admission is the truth?” Neri Colmenares said.
It is now incumbent upon Duterte to prove that there was no irregularity in the release of P125 million, which was spent in just 19 days, he added.
“She can start by providing the public, Congress, and COA (Commission on Audit), the receipts and documents of payments so that these funds can be regularly audited,” Colmenares said.
He added the burden of proof is on the vice president and not the members of Congress who are only doing their constitutional mandate of scrutinizing the spending of public funds.