Lawmaker: DBM says OP's P125M fund transfer to OVP didn’t bypass Congress

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 14) – The chairman of the House Appropriations committee disclosed that the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) sent a letter to the panel, saying that the Office of the President (OP) did not bypass Congressional power when it transferred ₱125 million to the Office of the Vice President (OVP).

“While it is understandable that, at the outset, the release of funds to the OVP may be perceived as a transfer, the same was not technically so, for such release was funded from Contingent Fund under the FY (fiscal year) 2022 GAA (General Appropriations Act) and not from the budget of the OP,” DBM Sec. Amenah Pangandaman wrote in her letter, as shared by Appropriations panel chair Ako-Bicol Rep. Elizaldy Co on Thursday.

The Office of the Executive Secretary (OES) earlier confirmed that President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. approved the release of ₱221.42 million to the OVP in 2022.

It said ₱125 million of the transfer was for confidential funds, but only indicated that it would be used for the OVP’s “newly created satellite offices.

According to Co's statement, Pangandaman explained that the release came from the ₱7 billion contingent fund to support the OVP’s “Good Governance Engagements and Social Services Projects."

She further clarified that the release of funds was not “an augmentation or transfer of funds” from the OP, citing the 2014 Supreme Court Araullo vs. Aquino ruling penned by former Justice and now Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin which declared that such an act would be unconstitutional.

The 2014 ruling declared that the act of withdrawing unobligated allotments from implementing agencies, declaring the funds as savings, and then transferring these to offices outside the Executive Department to fund projects not listed in the year’s budget was a bypass of Congressional power.

Furthermore, Pangandaman in her letter explained that the release of a contingent fund was not limited to a particular government agency and the only prohibition of its use was for the purchase of motor vehicles.

She added that the contingent fund is intended for “expenditures not anticipated during the preparation of the budget.”

The Makabayan bloc scrutinized the transfer, describing it as illegal and unconstitutional.

Last July, the Commission on Audit likewise flagged the OVP’s establishment of satellite offices – the reason why the funds were transferred in the first place as per Bersamin – and noted that the office spent ₱125 million in confidential funds in 2022.

READ: COA flags OVP over immediate establishment of satellite offices

CNN Philippines has requested a copy of the DBM’s letter to the House Committee on Appropriations.