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Nullify 2 orders for confidential funds, SC asked

PETITION VS. CIF. Lawyer Howard Calleja (second from left) joins former Commission on Audit chief Heidi Mendoza (left), civil society advocates for good governance, religious groups, and concerned citizens in filing a case at the Supreme Court on Wednesday. They raised the constitutionality, accountability, and public disclosures of confidential and intelligence funds (CIFs) in a petition also signed by former SC Justice Antonio Carpio. Danny Pata
Rey E. Requejo

A taxpayers’ suit has been filed before the Supreme Court seeking to nullify the order and circular that covers the disbursement of confidential and intelligence funds (CIFs).

In a 45-page petition, the petitioners led by retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, Howard Calleja, JP Calleja, and former senator Richard Gordon asked the SC to declare null and void Executive Order No. 2 and Joint Circular No. 2015-01 for “being averse” to the 1987 Constitution.

These orders provide the guidelines for the disbursement and liquidation of confidential funds.

Impleaded as respondents were Vice President Sara Duterte, the Office of the Executive Secretary, the Senate of the Philippines, the House of Representatives, the Department of Education, the Department of Budget and Management, the Department of the Interior and Local Government, the Governance Commission for GOCCs, and the Commission on Audit (COA).

The petitioners also asked the High Court to prohibit the respondents or any person, entity, member, officer, employee, or representative from enforcing the EO and joint circular.

They also pleaded with the Court to issue a temporary restraining order, writ of preliminary injunction, and/or mandamus to prevent any irreparable injury to petitioners due to the infringement of their rights.

The petitioners also prodded the SC to direct Duterte, the Senate, House, and state auditors to give the petitioners the report of expenses and liquidation of the Office of the Vice President’s (OVP) 2022 confidential funds.

In their petition, the lawyers led by Carpio argued that the release and disbursement of confidential funds violates Section 28, Article II of the 1987 Constitution.

The section provides that subject to reasonable conditions prescribed by law, the State adopts and implements a policy of full disclosure, as well as Section 7, Article III, which states that the “the right of the people to information on matters of public concern shall be recognized.”

“Joint Circular No. 2015-01 and EO are unconstitutional because they are not laws passed by Congress. They have no force of law. Specifically, the joint circular is simply a guideline,” the petitioners said.

Because of this, the petitioners urged Congress to enact a law on confidential funds.

“That’s not a Republic Act. That’s not a law. So, it can be enough, it can be too much, it can be lacking. But we should clarify it. That’s all we’re asking for,” Howard Calleja said in a press conference.

“We are calling on Congress, there’s still no law, maybe you want to wake up a little. Let’s create a law so we can have a standard on what is confidential, what is an intelligence fund, and what should be used for what,” he added.

Carpio said Congress should enact a law providing for reasonable limitations.

“Because we are reasonable people. We cannot just say that a local government can decide any amount to be given to the mayor to be the confidential fund. We should have reasonable limitations,” he said.

Also present were former COA commissioner Heidi Mendoza and activist Father Robert Reyes.

The filing came days after other petitioners asked the High Court to declare the transfer of the P125 million confidential funds to the OVP as unconstitutional.

The petitioners also asked the high tribunal to order the OVP to return P125 million in intelligence funds to the government’s treasury.

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