COA: Duterte has over P6 billion in discretionary funds

Lian Buan
COA: Duterte has over P6 billion in discretionary funds
The Office of the President's discretionary funds include a P1.4-billion donation of the Lopez-owned Benpres Corporation to the government dating back to 1990, which remains untouched

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has more than P6 billion in discretionary funds, which includes a P1.4-billion donation from the Lopez-owned Benpres Corporation dating back to 1990.

The Commission on Audit (COA) mentioned the figure in its 2016 audit of the Office of the President (OP) released on Tuesday, July 11, which shows the non-utilization of discretionary funds meant for socio-civic and economic development projects.

The money is at the disposal of the Chief Executive, to be spent once the OP issues guidelines for the implementation of projects to be funded.

The funds have been turned over to the OP for the President’s use. Let’s take a look at the funds available to Duterte:

1. Lopez donation

The OP has P1.412 billion in its trust fund earmarked for “agrarian reform, assistance to victims and areas affected by natural calamities and rehabilitation of depressed areas.”

This money goes all the way back to 1990 when the Meralco Foundation and the Presidential Commission on Good Government entered into a compromise agreement on the divestment of Meralco shares that the PCGG had sequestered.

The Meralco Foundation’s mother company, Benpres Corporation, represented then by Eugenio Lopez Jr, turned over the donation to the OP.

A series of memoranda and agreements were signed in the following years until in 2010, when the OP officially recognized the amount in its book of accounts.

But until 2016, the P1.4 billion remained untouched.

“The non-issuance of pertinent guidelines for the utilization of the said donation may have prevented (OP) to utilize the amount during the times when the country was severely hit and devastated by several typhoons, earthquakes and other natural calamities that caused severe damage to the property and lives of the Filipino people to mitigate the impact of these calamities,” COA said.

COA’s recommendation to Duterte: “Issue necessary guidelines and a work and financial plan for the utilization of the amount donated, taking into consideration the purpose of the said donation in order to mitigate poverty and the sufferings of Filipino people affected by natural calamities.”

2. Pagcor earnings

From the earnings of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) from 2014 to 2016, the OP was able to collect a share of P5 billion for the President’s Social Fund.

This was officially received by the OP on December 29, 2016, under Duterte’s term.

According to COA’s report, these funds shall be used to finance socio-civic projects and other poverty alleviation programs such as:

  1. Special Financial Assistance for soldiers, police, and other law enforcement personnel
  2. Medical Assistance 
  3. Burial Assistance
  4. Educational Assistance 
  5. Subsistence Allowance
  6. Livelihood Assistance
  7. Housing Assistance for individuals and/or government employees whose houses were washed out/totally damaged by typhoons or other calamities
  8. Other Special Assistance
  9. Financial assistance analogous/similar to the categories enumerated above

Gender and development 

COA also pointed out that though there is money available to the OP, as of December 2016, the office has only spent 0.019% of the budget allotted for gender and development (GAD) activities.

According to COA, the GAD Plan for 2016 identified 10 gender issues with 19 planned activities for the year. A P14.3-million budget was allotted for the 19 activities supposed to be carried out through 2016.

But by yearend, the outgoing Aquino administration and the new Duterte government only managed to implement 6 of them. These 6 projects only cost P532,406, or 3.70% of the budgeted cost and 0.019% of the total appropriations.

“Inquiry with concerned officials revealed that the main reason for non-implementation of the 13 programmed activities was the absence of the proponent due to change in administration of top management which took place during the year,” COA said. – 

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email or tweet @lianbuan.