'Di ko kailangan ng paliwanag': OVP confidential fund sparks debate between lawmakers

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 19 2023 06:07 PM | Updated as of Sep 19 2023 08:11 PM

Rep. Stella Quimbo and Rep. France Castro. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News/Press and Public Affairs Bureau handout
Rep. Stella Quimbo and Rep. France Castro. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News/Press and Public Affairs Bureau handout

MANILA — The P125-million confidential fund of the Office of the Vice President (OVP) last year sparked a debate between two lawmakers as the House began plenary deliberations for the 2024 national budget on Tuesday. 

During her interpellation, House Deputy Minority France Castro insisted that the OVP's 2022 confidential fund (CF) was illegal and unauthorized by Congress as it was not printed as a line item in that year's budget. 

When House Appropriations Committee Senior Vice Chair Stella Quimbo was about to explain that it was legal because it was sourced from the contingent fund, Castro cut her off.

"Madam Speaker tinatanong ko lang kanina kung entitled, okay. So hindi ko na kailangan ng paliwanag," Castro said. 

"Tinatanong ko lang, ang sagot ay yes or no. So hindi naman po ako nag-aano ng paliwanag para doon, so sinasabi, ang sagot Madam Speaker kanina, entitled ang OVP ng confidential funds in year 2022," she continued. 

Castro then came up with presentations comparing the 2023 budgets of Office of the President and the OVP, which explicitly showed entries for confidential funds. The 2022 budget had none. 

Quimbo tried to explain again, saying "Una sa lahat, one can force her opinion but one cannot force her facts." 

"Maling bahagi ng libro ang tinitignan po ninyo, maliwanag nagdeklara ang Supreme Court na ang contingent fund ay isang line item appropriation, so ibig sabihin no’n —" Quimbo said.

But Castro cut her off, saying "Hindi po natin pinag-uusapan ‘yong contingent fund." 

"Please allow the sponsor to finish her statement," presiding officer Deputy Speaker Kristine Singson Meehan said. 

"No, kasi po Madam Speaker ang tinatanong ko lang dito kung meron or wala na expressly provided for," Castro said. 

Quimbo finally called out Castro for not allowing her to talk.

"Sumagot po ako Madam Speaker na meron, at payagan niyo po akong ipaliwanag kung bakit meron. Ang problema po is ayaw po natin makinig, gusto ko po Madam Speaker ipaliwanag kung bakit," Quimbo said. 

"Hindi po ako ayaw makinig, naa-ano po ‘yong oras ko Madam Speaker, pinapatanong ko po, kaya nga yes or no lang po eh para mas mabilis," Castro said.

Meehan suspended the session, but not before Quimbo was overheard in the sound system saying she had been insulted for her explanations. 

"Payagan niyo po ako (magpaliwanag) I have been maligned in public," Quimbo said.

After a long break, the session resumed. 

Castro asked Quimbo about the transfer of the contingent funds to the OVP as confidential fund.

Quimbo rejected this and said that what happened was not a transfer, but an actual use of the contingent fund for expenses that were not anticipated during budget preparation. 

"Madam speaker, it is very clear that our colleague is confused about the nature of this fund, a special purpose fund. This is lodged with the DBM." Quimbo said.

"Di po ako confused," Castro responded. "Alam ko po yung sinasabi ko based doon sa mga documents." 

Citing a Supreme Court ruling, Quimbo then pointed out that the use of the contingent fund has little limitations. 

"Dahil nga po di na nga po ma-anticipate, lahat po ng pangangailangan ng ating gobyerno 2 years in advance kaya nilalagay sa special purpose funds sa DBM at hinihigi na lang ahensya sa DBM ang kanilang pangangailangan in case na merong new or urgent project or activities," she said. 

Quimbo went on to explain that confidential funds are meant to support projects, activities or programs, which are the ones that are itemized. In this case, it is the Good Governance Projects of the OVP.