SC asked to declare OVP’s P125-M secret fund in 2022 unconstitutional
MANILA, Philippines — Legal experts and former government officials lodged a petition asking the Supreme Court to declare as unconstitutional the transfer of P125 million to the Office of the Vice President (OVP) as a confidential fund in 2022.
They also urged the high court to order OVP to return the money to the treasury department.
Their 49-page petition argued the decision of Department of Budget and Management (DBM) allowing the release of the P125 million was “a clear usurpation of the exclusive power of Congress.”
“It is most respectfully prayed that this Honorable Court declare the transfer of the amount of P125 million to the Office of the Vice President as unconstitutional and that the Office of the Vice President be ordered to return the money to the government’s treasury,” the petition said.
Former Commission of Elections (Comelec) chair Christian Monsod filed the petition.
He is one the framers of the 1987 Constitution.
He was joined by former Finance Undersecretary Maria Cielo Magno; former Comelec Commissioner Augusto Lagman; and Attorney Ibarra Gutierrez, who served as spokesperson of former Vice President Leni Robredo.
Former Commission on Filipino Overseas chair Imelda Nicolas, Katrina Monsod, Ray Paolo Santiago, Honorio Poblador III, Vicente “Enteng” Romano III, Rex Drilon and Miguel Jugo also joined the group.
Named respondents were OVP, Office of the Executive Secretary represented by Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin, and DBM represented by Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman.
Petitioners said the transfer of the funds to OVP was a “clear usurpation of power” of Congress.
They said such action is an exercise of legislative power.
“Under the 2022 GAA (General Appropriations Act), while there is a heading on ‘Confidential, Intelligence, and Extraordinary Expenses’ and a particular item with an appropriation for ‘Extraordinary and Miscellaneous Expenses,’ there is no item, much more an appropriation, for ‘Confidential’ or ‘Intelligence’ Expense…,” the petition pointed out.
“Thus, it’s clear that Congress did not intend to create any item for Confidential Expenses, and the release of funds by the DBM to the OVP is a clear usurpation of the exclusive power of Congress to determine how the budget should be spent,” the document stated.
The petitioners also dismissed Malacañang’s explanation that it has the power to approve releases of funds to cover requirements of new urgent activities or projects that need to be implemented.
Palace had cited Special Provision Number 1 of the 2022 GAA.
“The appropriation by executive fiat is in clear violation of the legislative intent and does not fall under the delegated legislative power under the said provision of the Contingent Fund in the 2022 General Appropriations Act,’ the petitioners said.
They believe the transfer of funds from Office of the President is “invalid and unlawful.”
On August 28, during deliberations on the 2024 proposed budget of Commission on Audit, ACT Teachers Representative France Castro raised the issue on confidential funds.
She had questioned how OVP spent the P125 million supposedly in only 19 days.
During the plenary deliberation on the 2024 national budget in October, Marikina 2nd District Representative and House committee on appropriations senior vice chair Stella Luz Quimbo revealed the P125 million was used up by OVP in just 11 days.