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MANILA, Philippines – The Senate committee on finance on Monday, September 4, approved the proposed P2.3 billion budget of the Office of the Vice President (OVP) for 2024, including P500 million in confidential and intelligence funds (CIF).
The deliberations, which lasted for about an hour and a half, was cut short when Senator Bong Revilla moved to terminate the budget hearing as “courtesy” to the second highest official of the country.
“Traditionally, with due respect and courtesy to the second highest official of the country. When the budget of OVP, deliberations are terminated after a few pleasantries bilang pagkilala at respeto sa bise presidente (in acknowledgement of and out of respect for the Vice President),” Revilla said.
Only the minority bloc, Senate Minority Leader Koko Pimentel and Deputy Senate Minority Leader Risa Hontiveros, quizzed Vice President Sara Duterte about her request for P500-million CIF.
Hontiveros pointed out that Duterte’s request of P500 million is bigger than the confidential funds of the Department of National Defense and National Intelligence Coordinating Agency in the proposed 2024 budget.
“Ano po ba ‘yung magiging subjects ng OVP intelligence gathering operations? Ano ang mga intensyon at capabilities ng mga subjects na ito na kailangan ng OVP ng intelligence on these? At paano nitong mga subjects tine-threaten ang operations ng OVP?” Hontiveros asked.
(What will be the subjects of the OVP intelligence gathering operations? What are the intentions and capabilities of these subjects that they need intelligence on these? And how are these threatening the operations of the OVP?)
Duterte replied by saying that the funds will be used for “safe, secure, and successful implementation” of OVP projects.
Meanwhile, Pimentel quizzed Duterte about the over P125 million in confidential funds spent by OVP in 2022. This, despite it not being included in the 2022 approved budget.
“There was no item for confidential expense in 2022, so it’s not even P1. It’s zero. It’s not even mentioned in the line item budgeting for OVP. And yet at year-end, we have now entry of P125 million charged to a line item that did not exist at the beginning,” Pimentel said.
Pimentel was referring to the Commission on Audit Report (COA) that showed that the OVP spent P125 million in confidential funds for 2022. The OVP budget for 2022 was prepared by the office of then vice president Leni Robredo. Robredo’s office had said that they there was no line item on confidential funds in the budget they crafted.
Duterte said that it was her office that requested for CIF. “We requested it to the Office of the President, and was granted through Department of Budget and Management (DBM). I think DBM can better answer the transfer of funds. Nevertheless, we complied with the reportorial requirements on the use of funds as confidential funds.”
On top of the P500 million in CIF for OVP, Duterte is also seeking for P150-million confidential funds for the Department of Education, which she heads as secretary in a concurrent capacity. – Rappler.com