SC asks VP Duterte to answer petition vs P125 million secret funds
The Supreme Court has required Vice President Sara Duterte to comment on the petition for certiorari in connection with the controversial transfer of P125 million in confidential funds (CF) to her office last year.
In a notice released by the Supreme Court public information office on Monday, Clerk of Court Marife Lomibao-Cuevas said the justices, sitting in full court, issued a resolution on Nov. 14 requiring Duterte, Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin and Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman to “comment within 10 days from notice hereof.”
Duterte, Bersamin and Pangandaman were named respondents in a petition filed on Nov. 7 by a group of legal and economic experts, who asked the Supreme Court to declare as unconstitutional the transfer of P125 million in confidential funds from the Office of the President (OP) to the Office of the Vice President (OVP).
The petitioners also said that the OVP should be ordered to return the money to the government’s treasury.
Among the petitioners were: lawyer Christian Monsod, one of the framers of the 1987 Constitution; lawyer Barry Gutierrez, who served as spokesperson for former Vice President Leni Robredo; economist Maria Cielo Magno, who was asked to resign in September as finance undersecretary due to her opposition to the government’s rice price ceiling policy; former Commission on Elections Commissioner Augusto Lagman; former Commission on Filipinos Overseas chair Imelda Nicolas, and Ateneo Human Rights Center executive director Ray Paolo Santiago.
The OVP’s P125 million in confidential funds were part of the P221.4 million in contingent funds released by the OP to the OVP in December 2022.
It had been heavily criticized by lawmakers and other sectors especially after Marikina Representative and House committee on appropriations senior vice chair Stella Quimbo, during the plenary deliberation on the 2024 national budget last September, revealed that the P125 million was spent by the OVP in just 11 days.
In their 49-page petition, the petitioners stressed that the question of appropriation is important “because these funds are the people’s money—and therefore, it is proper that the appropriation and use of the people’s money be properly accounted for.”
A second petition questioning the controversial transfer of the P125-million confidential funds to Duterte’s office in 2022 was also filed with the high court on Nov. 15.
It was filed by retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, lawyer Manuel “Chel” Diokno, and former Sen. Richard Gordon, among others. They also questioned the legality of the allocation, release and disbursement of confidential funds. They also asked the high court to order Duterte, Congress and the Commission on Audit to provide documents showing how the OVP spent its 2022 confidential funds.
The Office of the Executive Secretary earlier said that President Marcos himself saw the need to release the fund in support of Duterte’s initiative upon the recommendation of the DBM. INQ