House of Representatives

FACT CHECK: Impossible for Romualdez to spend House’s 2017-2023 ‘confidential funds’

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FACT CHECK: Impossible for Romualdez to spend House’s 2017-2023 ‘confidential funds’
Martin Romualdez became Speaker only in July 2022. The lower chamber has also clarified that it does not have confidential funds.

Claim: Speaker Martin Romualdez has been spending the House of Representatives’ confidential fund since 2017.

Rating: FALSE

Why we fact-checked this: The Facebook bearing the claim has 197 shares, 20 comments, and 31 reactions, as of writing. The claim was posted on October 30 in a Facebook group that has 913 members. 

The post contains a photo of Romualdez with the following text: “San mo [ginastos] ang pera ng taong bayan. Confidential funds: 2017_255M, 2018_615M, 22019_1B, 2020_1.1B, 2021_1.12, 2022_1.4B, 2023_1.6B”

(Where did you spend the people’s money? Confidential funds: 2017_255M, 2018_615M, 2019_1B, 2020_1.1B, 2021_1.2B, 2022_1.4B, 2023_1.6B)

The facts: It’s impossible for Romualdez to have spent the alleged confidential funds of the lower chamber from 2017 to 2023. The lawmaker assumed speakership of the House only in 2022 under the Marcos administration. Furthermore, the House has denied allegations that it has confidential funds.

Extraordinary expenses: The funds mentioned in the post were neither Romualdez’s confidential fund nor the House’s, but rather the budget for the lower chamber’s extraordinary and miscellaneous expenses. 

The line item “Extraordinary and Miscellaneous Expenses” was listed in the General Appropriations Act (GAA) under the heading “Confidential, Intelligence, and Extraordinary Expenses.” From 2017 to 2023, the House of Representatives had the following appropriations for extraordinary and miscellaneous expenses:

  • 2017 – P255 million
  • 2018 – P615 million
  • 2019 – P1.065 billion
  • 2020 – P1.131 billion
  • 2021 – P1.222 billion
  • 2022 – P1.466 billion
  • 2023 – P1.614 billion

Use of extraordinary appropriations: According to the Commission on Audit (COA), extraordinary and miscellaneous expenses pertain to expenses “incidental to the performance of official functions, such as meetings and conferences, public relations, educational, cultural and athletic activities, membership fees in government organizations, etc.”

The general provisions of the annual GAAs also listed the following under extraordinary and miscellaneous expenses:

  • Meetings, seminars, and conferences
  • Official entertainment
  • Public relations
  • Educational, athletic, and cultural activities
  • Contributions to civic or charitable institutions
  • Membership in government associations
  • Membership in national professional organizations duly accredited by the Professional Regulation Commission
  • Membership in the Integrated Bar of the Philippines
  • Subscription to professional technical journals and informative magazines, library books and materials
  • Office equipment and supplies
  • Other similar expenses not supported by the regular budget allocation

On October 12, the House clarified that its extraordinary expenses were used mostly for the upkeep of the chamber. These include financing training activities, scholarships, travel, and other supplies, as the said line item falls under the budget for “maintenance and other operating expenses.” (READ: No House activity classified as ‘confidential and intelligence operation’)

These appropriations differ from confidential funds, which are used for surveillance activities of civilian government agencies. Meanwhile, intelligence funds are used for intelligence activities of uniformed and military personnel, as well as intelligence practitioners that have a direct impact on national security. (READ: Confidential funds: The new game in town)

Unlike confidential funds, extraordinary expenses are publicly auditable. In the proposed 2024 budget, lawmakers are suggesting that these should instead be classified as “extraordinary and miscellaneous expenses” to avoid confusion.

Clean audit reports: COA reports for the House showed “clean audits” during the years flagged in the misleading Facebook post. Annual audit reports from 2017 to 2022 showed no adverse findings in the lower chamber’s transactions. The latest COA audit on the House says: “For CY 2022 and prior years, no notice of suspension, notice of disallowance, and notice of charge was issued.” (READ: Contrary to Duterte’s claims: No red flags in House audits, says COA) – Ailla dela Cruz/

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