COA probe sought on alleged confidential funds of Davao City

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 1) – A lawmaker on Sunday urged the Commission on Audit (COA) to investigate the alleged ₱2.697-billion confidential funds of Davao City for the past six years, when Vice President Sara Duterte was its mayor.

“This would mean ₱1.235 million a day of secret spending for six years, this is way bigger than even the richest cities in the country like Makati City and Quezon City,” Alliance of Concerned Teachers Party-list Rep. France Castro said in a statement.

Earlier reports from state auditors showed that the country’s top two richest cities Quezon City and Makati City only had ₱435 million and ₱1.249 billion, respectively, in confidential funds in the past seven years.

Under Joint Circular No. 2015-01 of the COA and the Department of Budget Management, the total amount for confidential funds of a local government unit should not exceed 30% of its total annual amount allocated for its Peace and Order and Public funds.

Additional confidential funds are possible upon the approval of the Department of the Interior and Local Government, the joint circular further read.

Castro, who is also the House Deputy Minority leader, said the COA should investigate if the alleged spending of the local government abides with Joint Circular No. 2015-01.

“If it is proven otherwise, the money should be returned and legal action should be taken," she said.

The solon, a vocal critic of the Duterte and Marcos administrations, even claimed that the vice president was “so eager to have a confidential fund in her national office, as she may have become accustomed to such a practice during her time as mayor of Davao.”

She previously lambasted Duterte for spending ₱125 million confidential funds in only 19 days last year. Castro noted that this was done without congressional authorization.

READ: Castro: OVP spent ₱125 million confidential funds in 19 days

Castro also expressed strong opposition in allotting confidential funds to the Office of the Vice President and the Department of Education -- both of which are led by Duterte -- stressing that the budget should be earmarked instead to more important concerns, such as the early childhood development program.

“The Filipino people deserve to know how their hard-earned money is being spent,” she added. “We must hold our public officials accountable and ensure that transparency and integrity prevail in our governance."

Last week, lawmakers in both houses of Congress decided to realign confidential and intelligence funds to boost government agencies focused on securing the country's security amid recent tensions in the West Philippine Sea.