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Palace on fund transfer to OVP: President authorized to approve such

The Office of the Executive Secretary (OES) on Tuesday defended the action of the Office of President of allowing the transfer of funds to the Office of the Vice President (OVP) in 2022.

In a statement, the OES said that the office of President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. had approved the release of P221.424 million to the OVP, upon the latter's request.

According to the OES, the President is allowed to approve the releases pursuant to Special Provision No. 1 under Fiscal Year 2022 Contingent Fund.

"The President is authorized to approve releases to cover funding requirements of new or urgent activities of NGAs, among others, that need to be implemented during the year," the OES said.

"VP Sara, who was newly elected then, needed funds for her new programs for the remaining period of 2022. The President supported this initiative and released the funds, with the favorable recommendation of DBM," it added.

The OES said that the amount was for the following Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses: a) Financial Assistance/Subsidy – P96.424 million, and b) Confidential Funds (for newly created satellite offices) – P125.0 million, chargeable against the FY 2022 Contingent Fund.

On Monday, Vice President Sara Duterte admitted that her office had requested confidential funds in August 2022 and received the allocations in December of that year.

"The amount is correct and that is correct, we requested confidential funds to the Office of the President as early as August 2022 and we were only granted the confidential funds in December 2022," Duterte said during the Senate Committee on Finance hearing on the proposed P2.385-billion budget of the OVP for 2024.

Senate Minority Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III raised a legal issue during the hearing, saying that there was no item in the OVP budget for confidential expenses in 2022.

For her part, Senator Risa Hontiveros also questioned the transfer of allocations in 2022 to confidential funds that didn't exist that year in the OVP. She said someone should be held accountable for the unauthorized and clearly illegal transfer of funds.

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 General Appropriations Act (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. —KG, GMA Integrated News