Quimbo: OVP’s ₱125-M confidential funds spent in just 11 days, not 19

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 25) – In just 11 days, the Office of the Vice President spent ₱125 million in confidential funds transferred to it by the Office of the President, as opposed to the earlier reported 19 days a staunch defender of the Sara Duterte-led office’s budget revealed on Monday.

“Madam Speaker, ang totoo po ay nagulat din po ako noong mabasa ko ang mga balita na tila nagastos po sa loob ng 19 days at tinanong ko po ang COA [Commission on Audit] at tiningnan ko po ang mga iba’t ibang mga reports, pero hindi po ito nagastos sa loob ng 19 days kung hindi 11 days po,” Marikina Rep. Stella Quimbo, the senior vice chairperson of the House Appropriations Committee, bared to the House plenary as COA's sponsor during the 2024 budget debates.

[Translation: Madam Speaker, the truth is I was shocked when I read reports that it (confidential funds) was spent within 19 days so I asked the COA and I reviewed different reports. It wasn’t spent in 19 days, but just 11 days.]

ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro last month told CNN Philippines’ The Source that the OVP spent all ₱125 million of its confidential funds, which the Office of the Executive Secretary earlier indicated would be used for “newly created satellite offices” in only 19 days.

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

Citing the COA, Quimbo disclosed to the Plenary that the OVP submitted its liquidation report on Jan. 17, 2023, and was issued an audit observation memorandum (AOM) on Sept. 18, 2023.

She added that the AOM, which is confidential in nature, had requested additional documents from the OVP.

Further, she said that COA would submit a full report on the OVP’s 2022 budget on Nov. 15, as the audit was still ongoing.

OVP spokesperson Atty. Reynold Munsayac said on Monday that the office had not yet received the AOM from COA.

Quimbo earlier defended the OVP’s budget and the OP’s criticized fund transfer to the former of ₱221.42 million, including ₱125 million in confidential funds. Lawmakers have described the move as illegal and unconstitutional.

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

Quimbo — who has drawn flak for backing the OVP’s allocations — called for the creation of a House Special Oversight Committee for confidential and intelligence funds (CIFs) to promote transparency in the budget. It would be composed of the House Speaker, three Majority lawmakers, and one from the Minority.

Currently, only the President of the Philippines, the Senate President, and the House Speaker have access to information about government agencies’ CIFs.

The Department of Budget and Management earlier this month claimed that the OP’s fund transfer to the OVP did not bypass Congressional power.

Meanwhile, the OVP’s budget has yet to undergo debates in the Senate. Sen. Risa Hontiveros said she would scrutinize the agency's allocations.