Sara to leave it up to Congress whether to reduce confidential funds: lawmaker
Vice President Sara Duterte is willing to defer the decision on reducing the P500 million confidential funds to Congress, the lawmaker who sponsored the Office of the Vice President’s (OVP) budget said.
Davao de Oro Rep. Maria Carmen Zamora initially said the confidential funds were needed by the OVP to fully assist the Office of the President and other government agencies.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman previously asked: “In the spirit of patriotism and frugality, considering the limited fiscal space which resulted to the decrease of appropriations of most government agencies, could the distinguished sponsor, ask the honorable vice president if she is willing to forego her confidential funds?”
“The honorable Vice President believes that she can fully implement as a complement of the Office of the President (OP)by operating under these confidential funds with her intention to assist the president and other government offices under the executive department in ensuring that all of this be done with the ensuring peaceful and a secured nation,” Zamora said.
In response, Lagman said, “which is actually not in the mandate of the Office of the Vice President.”
“Now, it is now our understanding that the Honorable Vice President is not willing to forego not even a single centavo of the 500 million confidential funds allocated in her office,” he added.
Zamora later retracted her statement.
“Mr. Speaker, if I may, Your Honor, the honorable Vice President shared it with me now. She’s saying she defers to the decision of the majority of this honorable Congress,” she said.
Zamora during the hearing said the OVP’s proposed budget increased by 226.58 percent, the largest percentage increase received by a government agency from 2022 to 2023.
When Zamora was asked to justify why Congress should grant OVP’s proposal to include the Confidential Funds, which according to Lagman was “unprecendented in magnitude”, she said it would be used for the “safe implementation of activities and projects”.
“The amount of P500 million as confidential funds is for the safe implementation of projects and activities of the Office of the Vice President with proper security coordination and safety protocols for the benefit of the organization and the availing public,” Zamora said.
Zamora maintained that having confidential funds was legal under the joint circular by the Commission on Audit and Department of Budget and Management which was issued in 2015.
Kabataan Party-list Rep. Raoul Manuel said that the confidential funds were vice presidential pork cloaked in good governance.”
“This representation believes, with all due respect to the honorable sponsor, that good governance is the opposite of having huge confidential funds. Good governance highly depends on principles of accountability and transparency, especially on our public officials. It's hard to say that you are for good governance when most of your funds are hidden,” Manuel told the hearing.
“I believe that if the NTF-ELCAC (National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict) is deemed as general’s pork, the current proposal of the OVP can be likened to vice presidential pork cloaked in good governance,'' he said.
Manuel said that the P500 million confidential funds cannot be attributed to general administration and services which is only worth P91 million, and was instead part of the good governance programs.
“That means the confidential funds will constitute 23 percent or one-fourth of the good governance program. This consumes a huge share of the projects or programs that were meant for the public. In totality, the confidential funds will consume 22 percent or a little more than one-fifth of the budget of the Vice President,” he said.
“If there are 500 million in confidential funds, we cannot attribute this to general administration and services which is only worth P91 million. This means the P500 million confidential funds are part of Good Governance programs and not separate from it,” Manuel said.
“That means the confidential funds will constitute 23 percent or one-fourth of the good governance program. This consumes a huge share of the projects or programs that were meant for the public. In totality, the confidential funds will consume 22 percent or a little more than one-fifth of the budget of the Vice President,” he added. Jaspearl Tan/DMS