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

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 28) — ACT Teachers Party-list Rep. France Castro on Monday claimed that the Office of the Vice President (OVP) spent its ₱125 million confidential funds in 2022 in only 19 days.

Castro, the House deputy minority leader, alleged that the OVP spent the funds in 2022 even without Congressional authorization. She said there was no appropriation for confidential expenses for the OVP under that year's General Appropriations Act.

Hindi ito authorized at nakita natin there was a contingent fund from the Office of the President na nanggaling itong ₱125 (million) confidential fund (This was not authorized and we saw there was a contingent fund from the Office of the President where this ₱125 million confidential fund came from),” she told CNN Philippines’ The Source on Aug. 28.

In a separate statement, Castro said the Budget department released on Dec. 13, 2022 the 2022 SARO-BMB-C-22-0012004 for the OVP amounting to ₱221,424,000 "to cover Financial Assistance/Subsidy and Confidential Fund per Office of the President Approval dated November 28, 2022." SARO refers to Special Allotment Release Order.

This amount includes the ₱125 million allocated for confidential funds and more than ₱96.4 million for medical assistance, she noted.

"In its Statement of Appropriations, Allotments, Obligations, Disbursements and Balances (SAAODB) as of December 31, 2022, the OVP reported that of this amount, as of the Quarter ending December 31, 2022, it had obligated and disbursed Php 155,000,000, with Php 66,424,000 remaining as unobligated allotment," Castro explained.

The OVP’s SAAODB as of the quarter ending June 30, 2023 reported the same amount of ₱66,424,000 under Contingent Fund: Financial Assistance/Subsidy-Others. Castro said this implies that the ₱125 million in Confidential Funds “was already spent by Dec. 31, 2022, along with Php30,000,000 of the Financial Assistance, for a total of Php 155,000,000."

This means that OVP spent the whole ₱125 million in just 19 days from Dec. 13 to 31, 2022, which translates to almost ₱7 million per day, the lawmaker pointed out.

Castro previously said that Vice President Sara Duterte could be held liable for a number of criminal cases, including for alleged technical malversation and illegal use of public funds, and violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

"We ask that the OVP provide a detailed public accounting of how the Php 125 million was spent. We hope that Vice President Sara Duterte will use the OVP budget hearing to personally clarify her position on this sensitive issue," Castro wrote in a statement on Saturday.

She said the Commission on Audit had committed to look into the matter and to submit a report to the House appropriations committee.

Castro earlier clarified it's too early to discuss an impeachment complaint against Duterte, but maintained her position that the OVP’s use of confidential funds last year was "illegal."

The legislator made the clarification after she said she will study ways to hold Duterte accountable for alleged violations in relation to the confidential funds – her response when asked by the media if she is studying the vice president's possible impeachment. 

Duterte on Thursday hit back at Castro, saying: "All she did was wildly and masterfully arrange some allegations against me and the OVP, which will all be answered once the probe is done and during the budget hearing."

CNN Philippines is seeking comment from the OVP on Castro's latest statement.