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DBM said nothing unconstitutional in funds released to OVP, says Co

The Department of Budget and Management has said that there was no violation of the Constitution when a portion of Malacañang's contingent fund was released to the Office of the Vice President in late 2022, the chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations said on Thursday.

AKO Bicol party-list Representative Elizaldy Co said a letter from Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman assured Congress that "the Office of the President didn’t subvert the House’s power over the purse when it released contingency funds to the office of Vice President Sara Duterte late last year."

According to Co, Pangandaman said that the P125 million released to the OVP came from the P7 billion budget set aside as Contingent Fund for 2022 "and was intended to support the OVP’s Good Governance Engagements and Social Services Projects."

"The amount of P125 million is the larger part of the total P221.42 million released to the OVP and sourced from the Contigent Fund under last year’s General Appropriations Act approved by Congress," Co said.

Lawmakers from both the Senate and the House of Representatives have raised legal questions on the OVP's use of P125 million confidential funds from the P221 million released from Malacañang's contingent fund in December 2022.

Senators Aquilino Pimentel III and Risa Hontiveros, and ACT Teachers' party-list Rep. France Castro have raised the legal issue that the OVP didn't have a line item for confidential funds under the 2022 General Appropriations Act, and thus could not be augmented.

Pangandaman supposedly said the release of funds to the OVP was not an augmentation or transfer of funds from the OP, an action declared in 2014 as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

The magistrate who wrote the said ruling in Araullo versus Aquino was Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin,who is now the executive secretary.

The ruling on the Araullo case declared unconstitutional the act of withdrawing unobligated allotments, declaring them as savings, then transferring those savings to offices outside the Executive Department to fund projects not covered by the GAA.

“While it is understandable that, at the outset, the release of funds to the OVP may be perceived as a transfer, the same was not technically so, for such release was funded from Contigent Fund under the FY 2022 GAA and not from the budget of the OP,” Pangandaman was quoted as saying in her letter to the budget panel chairman.

As quoted by Co, Pangandaman said the use of contingent fund isn’t limited to a particular agency or office and only prohibits its use for the purchase of motor vehicles.

She said that by nature contingent funds were intended to be used for expenditures not anticipated during the preparation of the budget. —NB, GMA Integrated News