Quimbo: Nothing ‘improper’ about OP’s transfer of secret funds to OVP

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 18) — The Office of the President’s (OP) transfer of ₱125 million to the Office of the Vice President (OVP) was allowed under the 2022 General Appropriations Act (GAA), a senior member of the House appropriations panel said on Monday.

Marikina Rep. Stella Quimbo, vice chairperson of the appropriations panel, said the legality of the OP’s fund transfer was supported by documents submitted to the committee and budget briefings by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) with lawmakers.

“Wala naman akong nakikita (I have not seen) so far na (that is) anything improper, at least based on the NEP (National Expenditure Program) and based on the statement issued by our Appropriations chairman, Congressman Zaldy Co,” Quimbo said.

“Ipinaliwanag naman na ito ay use of contingent fund at meron namang existing line item at ito ‘yung good governance and social services budget,” she said.

[Translation: It was explained that it was the use of contingent fund and there was an existing line item of good governance and social services budget.]

Quimbo also said the transfer was “very consistent” on the chapters of the contingent fund and OVP budget in the 2022 NEP.

In a letter sent to House appropriations committee chairperson and Ako Bicol Party-list Rep. Zaldy Co, DBM Secretary Amenah Pangandaman explained that the ₱125 million released to the OVP came from the ₱7 billion budget set aside as Contingent Fund for 2022, and was “intended to support the OVP’s Good Governance Engagements and Social Services Projects.”

“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 2022 GAA and not from the budget of the OP,” Pangandaman said in the letter to Co, portions of which was quoted by the lawmaker's office in a statement.

Lawmakers from the Makabayan bloc have questioned the legality of the transfer, as well as Vice President Sara Duterte’s request for a total of ₱650 million in confidential funds for 2024.

Duterte is asking Congress for ₱500 million in confidential funds for the OVP, and ₱150 million for the Department of Education, which she concurrently heads.

Quimbo said the use of confidential funds will be scrutinized when plenary debates on the ₱5.768-trillion General Appropriations Bill for 2024 start Tuesday.

Various government agencies have requested over ₱10 billion in confidential and intelligence funds for 2024.