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MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Sara Duterte has dropped her request for a total of P650 million in confidential funds – P500 million for the Office of the Vice President (OVP) and P150 million for the Department of Education (DepEd) – in the proposed 2024 budget.
“The OVP can only propose a budget for safe implementation of its programs…. Nonetheless, they will no longer pursue the CF. The reason why, is because it seemed to be divisive, and as the Vice President, she swore an oath to keep the country peaceful and strong,” said Senator Sonny Angara, who sponsored the OVP budget during the Senate plenary deliberation on Thursday, November 9, as he read a statement from the OVP.
Senate Minority Leader Koko Pimentel commended Duterte for withdrawing her request for OVP confidential funds.
“I commend her for now categorically stating to this House that it’s not a deferral to our wisdom. She does not want it anymore,” Pimentel said.
Senator Francis Tolentino said that while Duterte openly dropped her bid for confidential funds, the decision still lies with the Congress.
“The Senate can or may propose or concur with amendments. It’s no longer lodged with the OVP but the decision should come from this chamber. I just want to manifest that constitutional provision,” he said.
Meanwhile, Senate President Migz Zubiri said that the confidential funds of the OVP will not be reinstated in the bicameral conference.
“Ayaw na ni VP. Nakausap namin siya. Ayaw niyang ibalik ‘yung confidential funds,” he said. (The Vice President doesn’t want it anymore. We spoke to her. She doesn’t like the confidential funds anymore.)
Later, at the plenary on the DepEd budget, sponsor Senator Pia Cayetano read a similar statement from Duterte.
“We are all parents who want to protect our children…. Nonetheless, the DepEd will no longer pursue the confidential funds,” Cayetano said, as she read Duterte’s statement.
The House of Representatives earlier removed Duterte’s request for confidential funds for the OVP and the P150 million confidential funds for Department of Education (DepEd), which she heads in a concurrent capacity.
It was the first time for Duterte to categorically state that she was dropping her request for OVP confidential funds. The Vice President had previously said that any decision on the request would be up to Congress.
Duterte had been under fire over the confidential funds issue, especially after it was learned that the Office of the President transferred P125 million in confidential funds to the OVP in 2022. It is now the subject of a petition before the Supreme Court, seeking the return of the funds, as the petitioners cited the act as a “clear usurpation of power of Congress.” (READ: The dangers of justifying VP Sara Duterte’s 2022 confidential funds)
Public outrage over the confidential funds mess pulled down Duterte’s public approval rating to 73% in September, an 11-percentage point drop compared to her 84% score in June. – Rappler.com