Supreme Court interpretation sought to settle confidential funds issue

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 13 2023 02:23 PM

MANILA — The controversy surrounding the emergence of confidential funds in government offices should be brought all the way to the Supreme Court (SC) for "clarification and resolution," a former lawmaker proposed.

“This is a matter that may need to be brought to the Supreme Court for clarification and resolution once the budget becomes a law," Makabayan stalwart and former Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares said in an earlier statement.

Until now, both critics and defenders of the controversial surveillance budget could only engage in a word war of sorts, offering explanations and interpretations that are not explicitly stated in the text of General Appropriations Act.

The Makabayan bloc was the first to flag the Office of the Vice President's (OVP) 2022 confidential fund during the budget briefing of the Commission on Audit (COA) earlier this month.

"Nag-submit na po ng mga compliance reports, liquidation reports ang OVP. We are now in the process of evaluating it po," COA chair Gamaliel Cordoba told the House Committee on Appropriations last August 24.

As Department of Budget and Management (DBM) documents later on would show, the Office of the President authorized the transfer of the funds from the P7 billion 2022 contingent fund to the OVP's 2022 confidential fund.

Makabayan quickly went to town with all the possible violations they see by the twin acts of using a confidential fund without a line item at the time the law was passed and the use of contingent fund for it.

The whole Makabayan bloc has used this to bolster their calls to end all surveillance spending in the budget, which they fear is a mode of corruption since the audit of these funds is not made public.