Sara Duterte’s secret funds can be resuscitated in bicam – Pimentel
MANILA, Philippines — Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III is not ruling out the possibility that the controversial P650 million confidential funds of the Office of the Vice President (OVP) and the Department of Educations (DepEd) could be restored during the bicameral committee discussion.
On Thursday, Vice President Secretary Sara Duterte dropped the request for the P500 million confidential fund for OVP and another P150 million for DepEd, which she concurrently heads.
But anything can still happen when the 2024 budget bill reaches the bicameral level, Pimentel said Friday.
“’Yan ang katotohanan na hindi maganda sa bicam, na parang anything goes po dun. But theoretically speaking, the bicam has the power to introduce anything…” he explained to reporters in a Zoom interview.
(That’s the truth that is not good in bicam as if anything goes there. But theoretically speaking, the bicam has the power to introduce anything…)
“So tama po ‘yan, theoretically speaking, pwedeng ma-restore,” he said.
(So that’s correct; theoretically speaking, it can be restored.)
The opposition leader then called on everyone to continue monitoring the budget deliberations in Congress until the government’s proposed spending plan for 2024 is approved in the bicam and ratified by both chambers.
Pimentel, however, saw no reason why Congress should still debate Duterte’s confidential funds when she herself is no longer pursuing it.
“Parang it would be a waste of time to force an agency to receive a funding na ayaw nila. Why should we do that?” he asked.
“Eh ito sinabi na harapan namin eh, ‘Ayaw ko na ‘yan’. Huwag na kaming mag aksaya ng panahon na magdedebate kami na bigyan natin ‘yung tao na ayaw. We should not waste time anymore.”
(This was said right before us, “I don’t want that anymore.” Let’s not waste time debating whether we should give it to someone who doesn’t want it. We should not waste time anymore.)
Besides, Pimentel noted, both the Senate and the House of Representatives have already agreed to give the OVP, DepEd, and other civilian government agencies zero confidential funds.
When the House approved its version of the proposed P5.768-trillion national budget next year, it removed the confidential funds of certain government civilian agencies, including OVP and DepEd.
The Senate committee on finance later adopted the House budget bill version.
Though it is “far-fetched” to still debate the same version on confidential funds, Pimentel reiterated that anything can happen in the bicam.
“Far-fetched, but of course anything can happen in Philippine politics, and that would be one of the biggest disappointments and one of the biggest political stories of the year kung mangyari ‘yan (if that happens),” the senator said.