VP Sara Duterte defends over 400 security staff in 2022

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 3) — Vice President Sara Duterte asserts that state auditors had no adverse findings on the creation of her security group, and explained that it aims to provide the country’s future second-highest officials with the necessary protection.

“The Commission on Audit (COA) found no adverse findings on the creation of the Vice Presidential Security and Protection Group (VPSPG),” the OVP said in a statement Sunday.

The OVP explained Duterte established the VPSPG in June 2022 to have a team independent from the Presidential Security Group that will protect future vice presidents.

The agency said the group’s purpose is “a fundamental task that it will inevitably perform even when the Vice President and the President face the misfortune of having a relationship strained or broken by political differences,” something that happened during the term of his father, former president Rodrigo Duterte.

This comes after a Commission on Audit (COA) report on the Office of the Vice President (OVP) showed 433 security escorts served Duterte during her first year in office.

During the 2024 budget deliberations on the OVP, Duterte was asked to explain the reason for the big number.

Assistant Secretary Lemuel Ortonio said VPSPG personnel were all deployed in the 10 different offices of the VP nationwide.

"The VPSPG personnel consist of admin personnel, they are holding their office at the headquarters and some of them are also doing security and surveillance work in the different satellite offices," Ortonio said.

Meanwhile, Sen. Sonny Angara also defended the number of security escorts.

"Hindi sila sabay-sabay may shifting 'yan...The impression created in the public might be na sabay sabay nagdu-duty lahat 'yan, hindi," he said.

[Translation: They are not all on duty at the same time, they go on shifts…The impression created in the public might be that all are on duty at the same time, that's wrong.]

The figure is 455% higher than the number of security personnel the OVP hired in 2021 or during the term of former vice president Leni Robredo.

However, comparisons to previous vice presidents, according to Duterte, are "absurd" and "completely lacking basis."

In addition to being the country's second-highest official, Duterte pointed out that she is also the secretary of the Department of Education, the co-vice chairperson of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, and the president of the Southeast Asia Ministers of Education Organization.

The OVP statement further said Duterte had a total of 558 engagements, 13 of which were international, from July 2022 until August 2023.

“The deployment of VPSPG personnel largely depends on the assessment of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police,” she said. “The OVP remains grateful to the AFP and PNP for supporting the VPSPG and OVP.”