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Risa Hontiveros wants probe of funds transfer to OVP

Senator Risa Hontiveros on Monday questioned the transfer of allocations in 2022 to confidential funds that didn't exist that year in the Office of the Vice President.

"Kung totoo at tama ang mga napabalitang report, dapat may managot sa unauthorized at malinaw na iligal na pagtransfer ng pondo papunta sa Office of the Vice President (OVP) noong 2022," Hontiveros said.

(If the report is true, someone should be held accountable for the unauthorized and clearly illegal transfer of funds to the Office of the Vice President in 2022.)

"These serious allegations and reports demand immediate investigation," she added.

At the hearing of the Senate Committee on Finance on the proposed P2.3-billion budget of the OVP for 2024, Vice President Sara Duterte said the OVP in August 2022 requested confidential funds from the Office of the President.

She said the OVP received the confidential funds in December that year.

Pimentel raised the issue of legality, saying that there was no item in the OVP budget for confidential expenses in 2022 

"It’s nothing, it’s zero. It’s not even mentioned in the line budgeting for the OVP and yet at year’s end calendar 2022, we will now have an entry [of] P125 million charged to a line which did not exist at the very beginning," Pimentel said. 

Duterte said the Department of Budget and Management would be in a better position to answer.

"We requested it from the Office of the President and it was granted through the Department of Budget and Management," Duterte said.

"I think the Department of Budget and Management can better answer the question on the transfer of funds from their source to the Office of the Vice President," she added.

Hontiveros in a statement cited Section 25(5) of Article VI of the 1987 Constitution which states, “No law shall be passed authorizing any transfer of appropriations; however, the President, the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and the heads of Constitutional Commissions may, by law, be authorized to augment any item in the general appropriations law for their respective offices from savings in other items of their respective appropriations.”

"In the General Appropriations Act (GAA) for 2022, there were zero items for any confidential funds earmarked for the Office of the Vice President. Ano ito, multo? May ghost transfer?" Hontiveros said.

"So while it is true that the law allows the President—among certain other officials—to realign or transfer appropriations which have become savings, these savings cannot augment a non-existent item in the GAA," she added.

"Confidential funds are not cheat codes which can be used to blatantly violate existing laws and regulations," Hontiveros said.

GMA News Online has sought further comment from the OVP, Malacañang, and the DBM. It will publish their comments as soon as they become available. 

The Commission on Audit (COA), in its 2022 Annual Audit Report, disclosed that the OVP had P125 million in confidential expenses last year despite not having an appropriation for intelligence or confidential funds under the 2022 GAA.

Earlier, Duterte said there was nothing irregular or unauthorized in the utilization of the P125 million even if such an item was not provided under last year's GAA.

She also said the OVP had already planned and identified events, activities, and projects that would be covered by the confidential fund as early as August 2022— two months after she took her oath as the 15th Vice President of the country. —NB, GMA Integrated News