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Quimbo: VP Sara entitled to P125M confidential fund in 2022

The Office of Vice President Sara Duterte was entitled to a P125 million confidential fund in 2022 because such confidential expenses were spent under the OVP’s good governance program provided under the national budget law, according to House appropriations senior vice chairperson Stella Quimbo on Tuesday.

“Entitled po siya [sa confidential fund] noong 2022 because of the 2022 [national budget] appropriation for the contingent fund. The contingent fund is a special purpose fund... The agencies can ask the DBM (Department of Budget and Management) for their [funding] need for a new and urgent project as they go along,” Quimbo said during the first day of the deliberations on the proposed P5.768 trillion budget for 2024.

Quimbo's statement comes after House Deputy Minority Leader France Castro argued that the OVP was not entitled to receive that amount because the confidential fund is not expressly provided for in the OVP’s budget.

Quimbo, however, stressed that confidential expenses are not a line item in the national budget, even as Castro pointed out in a PowerPoint presentation that the 2022 national budget law shows that the agencies’ confidential fund, including the Office of the President, were listed as line items.

“The confidential expense is not a line item. Hindi po siya line item. Hindi po lahat ng salita sa GAA (General Appropriations Act) ay line item. Ang line item lamang at gaya ng Programs, Activities and Projects (PAP) [of agencies]. Ang line item na PAP ng OVP noong 2022, kung saan kasama ang confidential expenses, ay Good Governance Projects and Social Services. Kaya po sinasabi natin na authorized ang confidential expense noong 2022 [ng OVP],” Quimbo said.

(Not all GAA provisions are line items. The line item is limited to the PAP of agencies. OVP’s PAP for 2022, which includes confidential expenses, is Good Governance Projects and Social Services. That is why we are saying this is authorized.)

Castro, however, countered by citing Section 85 of the general provision of the 2022 national budget which provides that the use of confidential funds should be governed by the 2015 joint circular issued by the Commission on Audit, DBM, Department of the Interior and Local Government, Department of National Defense, and the Governance Commission for Government Owned and Controlled Corporations on the of confidential funds.

Under the said Joint Circular, confidential funds can be granted to national government agencies which are expressly provided budget allocation for confidential fund under the national budget law or GAA or other law/s.

“Hindi pa rin po nasasagot ang tanong ko. I beg to disagree that this [confidential fund] is expressly provided for in the budget allocation for OVP in year 2022. Kung talagang ito (confidential fund) ay nasa PAP [ng OVP] on good governance, dapat expressly provided for ito [sa 2022 national budget],” Castro said.

“The general provision of the 2022 national budget [mandating compliance of Joint Circular] is clear. It should be expressly provided for by the law. Expressly provided for po ang nakalagay because otherwise, the Executive could just grant confidential fund to anybody. That is why our position is that the transfer [of contingent fund to confidential fund] is illegal, the receiving of such  fund is illegal, and that spending such contingent fund as confidential is illegal,” Castro added.

(It states expressly provided for a reason.)

The OVP’s P125 million confidential fund expenditure for fiscal year 2022 was part of the Commission on Audit's annual audit report on the said office. 

Duterte previously said that the department if prepared to be scrutinized by the Commission on Audit (COA) on the spending.

“There was nothing irregular or unauthorized about its spending and the required liquidation and accomplishment reports have been submitted to the oversight agencies,” Duterte said back in August. —VAL, GMA Integrated News