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SC asked to order VP’s office to return P125m in confidential funds

Rey E. Requejo

The Supreme Court was asked to order the Office of the Vice President to return the P125 million confidential funds it spent in 2022 to the government’s treasury, saying these were “unconstitutional.”

In a 49-page petition filed on Tuesday, the petitioners said the transfer of funds from the Office of the President to the OVP was an exercise of legislative power.

This violated Article VI, Section 1 of the 1986 Constitution which provides that legislative power belongs to the Senate and House of Representatives.

Vice President Sara Duterte, for her part, welcome the filing of the petition before the High Court, saying this will give her a chance to clear her name.

“We welcome the opportunity to discuss the legality of fund transfers. We hope that the wisdom of the Supreme Court will pave the way to finally end this matter,” she said.

Duterte also asked the public to instead turn its attention instead to issues in the education and economic sectors.

“It is very important that we focus on addressing the important issues regarding prices of commodities that affect our students and their families,” the Vice President added.

The petitioners included former Commission on Elections chairman Augusto Lagman, Constitution framer Christian Monsod, former Finance Usec. Maria Cielo Magno, Commission on Filipinos Overseas chairperson Imelda Nicolas, and lawyer Ibarra Gutierrez III, ex-spokesman former Vice President Leni Robredo.

“Under the doctrine of separation of powers, the power of appropriation falls exclusively within the domain of the legislative branch of government. Congress decides how the budget will be spent, what programs, activities, and projects (PAP) to fund, and the amounts of money to be spent for each PAP,” read their petition.

“Verily, the appropriation done by the DBM (Department of Budget and Management) is a clear usurpation of the legislative powers of the Congress of the Philippines to create and fund an item that has not been done so by the Congress itself.”

The petitioners argued that there is no “delegated legislative power” in the transfer and that confidential funds do not fall under the funding allowed by the contingent fund.

The transfer, they said, was also a circumvention of accountability.

“The transfer to an item created by executive fiat, which is the Confidential Fund, is nothing more but to circumvent the proper accounting scrutiny required for the use of public funds,” the petitioners said.

“The utilization of a confidential fund under the guise of confidential expenses is to shortchange accountability when the very same expenses are already itemized in respondent OVP’s budget under the GAA (General Appropriations Act) of 2022.”

Named respondents in the petition were the OVP, represented by Vice President Sara Duterte, the Office of the Executive Secretary, represented by Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin, and the Department of Budget and Management, represented by Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman.

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