Quimbo: OVP secret funds came from contingent fund, placed on line item in budget
MANILA, Philippines — Marikina 2nd District Rep. Stella Quimbo believes ACT Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro is just confused about the Office of the Vice President (OVP) use of confidential funds (CF) in 2022, as the allocation was placed in a line item in the budget — and therefore, was above board.
Quimbo made the remark on Tuesday, on the first day of plenary debates on the proposed 2024 national budget, after Castro repeatedly asked if the OVP’s Confidential Funds use was legal and where the allocation was sourced.
According to Quimbo, sponsor of the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) general provisions, the CF was sourced from the contingent funds, and the nature of the contingent fund is that it is a special purpose fund (SPF) lodged with the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).
The SPF, on the other hand, are appropriations in the General Appropriations Act with no specific purpose yet but will cover expenditures that departments and agencies have not yet identified during budget preparation.
“Madam Speaker, it is very clear that our colleague is confused about the nature of this fund, a special purpose fund. This is lodged with the DBM,” Quimbo, senior vice chairperson of the House Committee on Appropriations, said.
“Madam Speaker, I am not confused, I know what I am talking about, okay? So based on the documents you said earlier, there is a contingent fund seen in the report of the OVP itself, in the SAOB (Statement of Allotment, Obligation, and Balances) […] one is the confidential fund, and another is for financial and medical fund or assistance. So it’s P221 million,” Castro replied.
For the past month, Castro and the Makabayan bloc have called out the OVP and Vice President Sara Duterte for requesting and eventually using P125 million worth of Confidential Funds in 2022.
Castro contends that the OVP under Duterte cannot register confidential expenses as the agency’s budget crafted under former vice president Leni Robredo had no expressly budgeted CF. However, Quimbo maintained that under Duterte, the CF was placed into the OVP’s Good Governance Project and Social Services Project, which she said is already a line item.
“Here in the special provision, this is the authorization regarding the use of contingent funds. Now, what is important is that there is an existing line item with the [OVP]. At it is clear, the existing line item in the OVP 2022 GAA [General Appropriations Act] is the Good Governance Project and Social Services Project,” Quimbo explained.
“I would just like to clarify also that confidential expense is not a line item. Not everything you see in the NEP [National Expenditures Program] or the GAA are line items. The only line items in the NEP or the GAA are the projects, activities, or programs or PAP. Other parts like objects of expenditures are not line items, similar to personnel services, maintenance and other operating expenses, capital outlay supplies, traveling expenses; these are not line items,” she added.
After the exchange between Castro and Quimbo, Deputy Speaker and Davao City 3rd District Rep. Isidro Ungab clarified that the confusion might have stemmed from thinking that the CF under OVP is an augmentation of an already existing item, which was not the case.
According to Ungab, the CF was a new appropriation allowed under the contingent fund, which is a source of funding for government agencies that were not able to predict other expenses for the fiscal year.
“Madam chair, during the discussions, the senior vice chair of the committee on appropriations had repeated many times the legality of the contingent fund, aside from that (the) contingent fund is being provided for the new and existing,” Ungab said.
“It seems that the confusion is the thinking that this is an augmentation; this is not an augmentation, this is a new appropriation from the contingency fund […] in this particular case, rules of augmentation do not apply because the funds came from contingency funds,” he added.
This is not the first time on Thursday that Castro and Quimbo clashed over the CF for the OVP. Prior to this, the session was suspended after the statements of the two overlapped with each other.
Castro also disregarded Deputy Speaker and Ilocos Sur 2nd District Rep. Kristine Singson-Meehan’s request that Quimbo be allowed to explain her side, with the Makabayan solon saying that all she needed was a yes or no answer.
Even after the session was suspended, Quimbo was heard trying to explain herself, saying that she had been maligned in public for defending OVP’s CF allocation.
Quimbo did not specify how she was maligned, but in a press briefing last September 8, Castro accused the Marikina lawmaker of spreading misinformation when she claimed that there is a line item in the OVP’s 2022 budget regarding CFs, therefore legalizing its fund release.