VP Sara: Critics can't show proof to support 'dirty imagination' on confi funds

By GISELLE OMBAY,GMA Integrated News

Vice President Sara Duterte on Monday slammed critics in Congress who questioned the Office of the Vice President’s (OVP) confidential expenses in 2022 even if such item was not provided under last year's General Appropriations Act (GAA).

Duterte specifically mentioned Senator Risa Hontiveros, House Deputy Minority Leader France Castro of ACT Teachers party-list, and the Makabayan bloc, who all inquired about the transfer of budget allocations in 2022 to OVP’s confidential funds (CF).

“Senator Risa Hontiveros, while she amuses the nation with her flair for drama, could only wish the 2022 OVP CF was accessed illegally,” the Vice President said.

“It’s a shame they still cannot produce any proof to support their dirty imagination. The indignity they have caused Congress and the Senate should be enough for us not to give them serious attention,” she added.

During the Senate Committee on Finance’s deliberations on the proposed P2.385-billion budget of the OVP for 2024, Duterte admitted that the OVP requested confidential funds in August 2022 and received the allocations in December that year.

The Office of the Executive Secretary (OES) defended such, saying that the Office of the President had approved the release of P221.424 million to the OVP in 2022, upon the latter's request.

Of the amount, the OVP liquidated P125 million as confidential funds.

Duterte thus thanked President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin, Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr., and Marikina Representative Stella Quimbo for standing by the OVP amid the issue.

“Thank you to Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin for a detailed presentation of facts about the 2022 OVP CF and elucidating that the request, approval, and spending of the fund violated no law, which is diametrically adverse to what critics have been repeatedly harping,” she said.

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

"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 said.

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.

For 2024, the OVP is asking for P500 million in confidential and intelligence funds. The OVP was also granted the same amount for confidential expenses under the 2023 national budget.

On September 4, Hontiveros 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.)


Castro on the other hand on September 5 asked why there were billions of secret funds when many items need funding such as financial aid, free education, medical assistance, and affordable housing.

House Assistant Minority Leader Arlene Brosas of the Makabayan bloc meanwhile said the Office of the President's refusal, and also the OVP's, to go through public deliberations about their budgets especially with regard to their confidential and intelligence funds is one of the increasing reasons why their 'black budget' should not be approved but abolished instead.

Kabataan party-list lawmaker Raoul Manuel, also part of the Makabayan bloc, on the other hand, said that the OP is accountable for the release of P125-million confidential fund to the OVP in 2022 even if it was not provided under the 2022 national budget, as well as its huge P4.5 billion confidential fund that almost accounts for half of its proposed budget.

Reacting to the latest statement of the Vice president, Hontiveros said scrutinizing public fund use was part of her mandate as a senator.

“Trabaho lang, walang drama. Akala ko ba, VP Sara, the OVP can live without confidential funds? Bakit parang pinapawisan na yata kayo dyan, budget hearing pa lang? Lahat naman ng ahensya naglalabas ng proposed budget,” Hontiveros said in a statement.

(This is the job. There's no drama. I thought the OVP could live without the confidential funds, VP Sara? You seem to be agonizing over this, and this is just a budget hearing. All agencies put out a proposed budget.)

“Hindi kayo special. If you’re so confident about those confidential funds, then defend them publicly,” she went on.

(You're not special. If you’re so confident about those confidential funds, then defend them publicly.)

The opposition senator also took note of Duterte's comment that she “amuses the nation with her flair for drama” and said that what she finds amusing is the OVP’s act of evading budget-related questions.

“Napakababa na yata ng standards ngayon sa OVP. Gagawin mo lang ang trabaho mo, ‘amusing’ na agad? Kung meron mang ‘amusing, ‘ yan ay yung halos kalahating oras na turo-turo, pag-iwas sa tanong, paikot-ikot na sagot, at pagbabalu-baluktot ng sitwasyon. Ginawa nilang perya ang basic na proseso ng pagbusisi ng pera ng bayan,” she said.

(The OVP's standards seems to have been lowered. Just doing your job, and this is "amusing"? If anything is amusing, it's the almost half an hour of irrelevancies, evasions, talking in circles, and twisting of the situation. They turned the basic process of scrutinizing the use of public funds into a circus.)

“Hindi ko kailangang mag-‘wish’ na na-access ng opisina niyo nang ilegal ang confidential funds. Dalawang former Senate President na ang nagsabi — Sen. Drilon at Sen. Pimentel — na yung paglipat ng pondo mula OP to OVP ay ilegal at unconstitutional,” she added, citing earlier statements from former Senate President Franklin Drilon and Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III—who are both lawyers like the Vice president.

(I do not need to "wish" that your office had illegally accessed the confidential funds. Two former Senate Presidents have said it — Sen. Drilon at Sen. Pimentel — the transfer of funds from the OP to OVP was illegal and unconstitutional.)

Hontiveros then urged Duterte not to resort to red herrings. Instead, the Vice president should explain to the public why she needed the confidential funds, which was larger compared to the combined amount sought by the Department of National Defense (DND) and the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA).

“[H]igit sa usapin ng batas, huwag ilihis sa tunay na issue: Si Vice president Duterte lang - bilang VP at Secretary ng DepEd - ang may confidential funds na mas malaki pa sa combined confidential funds ng DND at NICA. Bakit ba kailangan niya ng napakalaking pondo na walang audit o disclosure sa publiko?” she said.

(More than discussions about the law, don't divert attention from the true issue: Only Vice president Duterte - as VP and DepEd Secretary - has confidential funds larger than the combined confidential funds of the DND and NICA. Why does she need such a large amount without a public audit or disclosure?)

“Given the significant responsibility of government officials, I demand a shred of competence when it comes to fiscal matters— like any Filipino taxpayer. Kaysa sa mga personal na atake at pag-iwas sa tanong, mas maganda sigurong kung linawin na lang si VP Sara ang pondo ng opisina nya para sa isang national budget na mas transparent, mas epektibo, at mas tutugon sa pangangailangan ng ating mga kababayan,” she ended.

(Given the significant responsibility of government officials, I demand a shred of competence when it comes to fiscal matters— like any Filipino taxpayer. Instead of personal attacks and evading questions, it would be better if VP Sara clarified her office's funding needs for a more transparent, effective national budget that is responsive to our citizens' needs) —KG/DVM, GMA Integrated News