Castro says VP Sara decides to drop secret funds because of backlash
MANILA, Philippines — The only reason why Vice President Sara Duterte no longer pushes for the allocation of confidential funds (CF) under her office is because people have reacted violently to it, ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro claimed on Thursday.
Castro in a statement insisted that the Office of the Vice President should really have no CFs in the first place, because investigating and surveillance are not part of Duterte’s mandate.
“Di naman talaga mandato ng opisina ng bise-presidente na magkaroon ng confidential at intelligence funds kaya walang karapatan magkaroon ang mga opisina niya ng ganito,” Castro said.
(It is not really the mandate of the Office of the Vice President to have confidential and intelligence funds, that’s why her office does not have the right to these funds.)
“Kaya lang naman naglabas ng ganitong pahayag ang OVP dahil nalantad na sa publiko ang pang-aabuso sa confidential fund kaya dapat pa din tayong maging mapagbantay at tutulan ito. Dapat na talagang iabolish ang confidential funds,” she added.
(The reason why the OVP is giving out this statement is because it was revealed to the public how confidential funds are being abused, that’s why we should really monitor this issue and oppose it. We should really abolish the confidential funds.)
Castro was referring to Duterte’s statement earlier, where she said that they will no longer pursue the CF allocation, as the issue has been divisive.
“[…] We will no longer pursue the Confidential Funds. Why? Because this issue is divisive, and as the Vice President, I swore an oath to keep the country peaceful and strong,” Duterte said.
But Castro asked why Duterte failed to include the Department of Education (DepEd) in her assurance that she will no longer pursue the CF.
DepEd, which is also headed by Duterte, asked for a P150 million CF for 2024. OVP meanwhile sought a P500 million allocation under the CF.
“Bakit OVP lang ang naglabas ng pahayag? Pero ang DepEd ay hindi, ibig sabihin ba ay igigiit pa din ni DepEd Sec. Duterte ang inihihirit niyang confidential fund sa departamento kahit wala itong kinalaman sa surveillance? Dapat maging kategorical siya sa kanyang pahayag kasama ang DepEd confidential fund,” Castro said.
(Why OVP only? But the DepEd has not made a statement, so does that mean that DepEd Sec. Duterte will still go after the confidential funds she asked for the department, even if it is not related to surveillance? They should be categorical about their statements, they should include the DepEd confidential fund.)
Castro also noted that Duterte still failed to address questions about the CF allocation within the OVP in 2022, which was questioned by the Makabayan bloc during the budget deliberations at the House committee on appropriations.
“Hindi pa din maayos na sinasagot ng OVP kung paano at saan ginamit ang iligal na P125 milyong confidential funds nito noong 2022. Hindi mabubura ng very belated at pilit na statement ng OVP ang mga tanong ng mamamayan,” she added.
(OVP still has not given a proper answer as to how and where the illegal P125 million confidential funds in 2022 were used. This very belated and forced statement from the OVP cannot remove the questions from the public.)
Discussions about the OVP and DepEd CF allocations for 2024 started when Castro and fellow members at the Makabayan bloc questioned Duterte over the P125 million CF set aside for OVP in 2022.
According to Castro, Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas, and Kabataan party-list Rep. Raoul Manuel, OVP’s confidential expenses in 2022 are illegal because the original budget of the OVP, crafted under the term of former vice president Leni Robredo, had no existing line item for a CF.
But Marikina 2nd District Rep. Stella Quimbo and the Department of Budget and Management clarified that the fund transfer was legal because the CF was placed in an existing OVP project, under the Good Governance Engagements and Social Services Projects.
DBM also noted that the CF was sourced from contingent funds and not the Office of the President’s budget, which indicates that it was not an inter-agency fund transfer.
Eventually, the discussions lead to greater scrutiny of the CF. Under the House-approved 2024 General Appropriations Bill (GAB), P1.23 billion worth of CF from different offices were removed and allocated instead to agencies involved in the protection of the West Philippine Sea.
OVP and DepEd had zero CF allocations in the 2024 GAB after the House decision.