SC gets 3rd petition to declare OVP’s 2022 secret funds unconstitutional
MANILA, Philippines — A third petition has been filed with the Supreme Court (SC) asking to declare as unconstitutional and void the release of the P125-million confidential funds to the Office of the Vice President (OVP) in 2022.
The petitioners filed by Makabayan representatives led by ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro, together with former Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, also asked the SC to nullify the request, receipt, and use of the confidential funds by the OVP led by Vice President Sara Duterte.
Petitioners also called on the SC to declare the P125-million auditable and order its restitution.
Petitioners said the release by the Office of the President of the P125 million has no legal basis because there was no congressional appropriation for the Office of the Vice President in the 2022 General Appropriations Act, and the Executive branch is not authorized to pass its own budget outside of the appropriations law.
They said the release of the P125-million confidential fund violated Section 1, Article VI of the Constitution, which declares that the legislative power shall be vested in Congress.
“While it is true that the Chief Executive has some discretion and flexibility in the budget execution stage, this power must only be exercised within the bounds set by the Constitution and the appropriate laws, including the pertinent General Appropriations Act, “ the petitioners said.
“Any release of confidential funds to an agency or instrumentality that does not comply with the letter and spirit of the relevant provisions of the appropriations act amounts to an overexertion of presidential powers during the budget execution phase,’ they added.
They said the provisions in appropriation laws on discretionary funds and lump sums must be subjected to strict interpretation, given that they are exceptions to the power of Congress as regards appropriations.
Petitioners added that the the request, receipt, and use by the OVP of the said funds without congressional authorization also violated Section 29 (1), Article VI of the Constitution which states that no money shall be paid out of the Treasury except in pursuance of an appropriation made by law.
“In other words, no confidential funds must be released to or disbursed by any agency or instrumentality which is not given entitlement to it by the general appropriations law,” the petitioners further said.
“Therefore, since the 2022 GAA did not authorize any amount of confidential expenses for the Vice President, the President cannot approve the release of confidential funds to her, and the former cannot disburse as confidential funds any amount released to her,” they added.
Lastly, they asked the SC to declare the said funds “fully auditable” and therefore subject to rigorous auditing by COA for any signs of corruption and irregularities.
The petitions brought to three the number of such pleas challenging the confidentiality of the confidential funds before the SC.
The first petition was filed by a group led by former Comelec chairperson Christian Monsod and lawyer Barry Gutierrez. They also asked the SC to declare as unconstitutional the P125 million in funds issued to Duterte’s office.
The second petition was filed by a group led by retired SC Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and lawyer Howard Calleja also asked the High Court to declare the said funds.
They also asked the SC to compel the OVP to provide them with the report of expenses and liquidation of the confidential funds.
Petitioners said the OVP and other government offices and officials cannot hide behind a 2015 Joint Circular and Executive Order No. 2 (2016) to escape public scrutiny on the manner of disbursing confidential funds.