Lawmakers go after Duterte's 2023 budget, confidential funds

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 22 2022 10:47 PM

Lawmakers who endorsed former Vice-President Leni Robredo for the presidency assailed the P2.2-billion budget for the office of incumbent Vice President Sara Duterte in 2023, pointing out that Robredo did not need as much funds to implement her programs.

One lawmaker also expressed concerns that Duterte's programs would duplicate the programs of other agencies, even as they pressed Duterte to continue Robredo's programs. 

Duterte however left the fate of her office budget to Congress, which is dominated by her allies.

All these happened during the plenary deliberation of the OVP's P2.2 billion budget for 2023 at the House of Representatives.

Duterte's office was represented by Davao de Oro 1st District Rep. Maria Carmen Zamora, who responded in Duterte's behalf to the questions posed by Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman and Makabayan bloc lawmakers ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro and Kabataan Rep. Raoul Manuel.

Lagman is a partymate of Robredo in the Liberal Party while the Makabayan bloc endorsed Robredo for president in the 2022 elections.

Their point--Robredo did more with less. The Vice President's Office countered that Duterte can do better since she is the partner of the President.

"It is the intention of the OVP under this current VP administration to work as a complement of the OP and it intends to work hand in hand with the OP," Zamora said.

UNPRECEDENTED BUDGET LEVEL

Lagman said that under the constitution, Duterte's one job should be to wait to take over as president should the office be vacated. 

He also said that Duterte's budget next year would be more than all of Robredo's budgets in her term combined.

"From the 2nd half of 2016 to the 1st half of 2022, the total appropriations for the Office of the Vice President amounted to only P3.826 billion for a period of 6 years," Lagman said.

"This proposed total appropriation for 2023 is 258.52% higher than the average appropriation for the OVP for the past 6 years." Lagman said.

"What agency or office of the national government received the highest % increase in its 2023 proposed appropriation compared to the current year's level?" Lagman asked.

"Based on the proposed appropriations for 2023, it is the OVP which receives the highest increase in terms of percentage," Zamora said.

Kabataan Rep. Raoul Manuel criticized Duterte's office for not continuing Robredo's programs.

"Familiar ba tayo doon sa mga naipatupad na programa ng OVP nung nakaraang anim na taon?" Manuel asked.

"Sa listahan ng mga proyekto sa ilalim ng Good Governance Program sa ilalim ng kasalukuyang OVP ay nakita lang nating mga tampok na programa ay livelihood programs, yung libreng sakay, pamamahagi ng bags di natin nakita doon yung diversity ng mga programa na mainam dapat maipagpatuloy. Wala pong pagbanggit sa mga covid related programs," Manuel said as he listed Robredo's programs.

"At this point we are already on COVID recovery programs, therefore the strategies that will be implemented in the implementation of post COVID operations will be different that includes livelihood programs economic recovery programs ," Zamora clarified.

"Nakakapagtaka kung bakit yung mga magandang nasimulan ng OVP ay hindi natin nakikita doon sa current plans," Manuel said.

"Hindi lahat ng mga magagandang programa na nasimulan na ng OVP ay maipagpapatuloy sa kasalukuyang OVP bagamat nandiyan yung thrusts halimbawa ng mga naunang programa," Manuel added.

Castro noted that Duterte's plans may duplicate other programs of other agencies. 

"Kasi parang kung titignan natin yung list of menu o yung menu ng mga social services na binabanggit na popondohan dito ay parang duplication ito ng mga projects na ginagawa ng DSWD, ng DOTR, at saka ng DOH etc," Castro said.

"That will not be a duplication. In fact that will be complementing the services of other agencies and rest assured that the OVP will be implementing these programs and projects with the consideration of being complementary it will not be a duplication in the services other agencies are giving," Zamora said. 

CONFIDENTIAL FUNDS

Even the confidential funds for the OVP is unprecedented in its magnitude, Lagman noted. Zamora however maintained even that is in partnership with the President.

"Vice Presidents Doy Laurel, Erap Estrada, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Teofisto Guingona, Noli de Castro, Jojo Binay and Leni Robredo did not enjoy the allotment of confidential funds. Is this correct?" Lagman said.

"What is the take of the distinguished sponsor that the previous VPs did not actually ask and was not allocated confidential funds in the magnitude of P500 million?" Lagman asked.

"The VP being a former local chief executive of the city of Davao who is a staunch supporter of advocacy of peace and order and national security, deemed it proper to be a complementing partner with the office of the president in assuring all of the president's programs will be implemented based also on the perspective of ensuring of a peaceful and a secured nation. It is the intention of the honorable vice president to implement her programs, using these confidential funds to assist and help all agencies in ensuring and assisting in achieving national security in the country," Zamora said.

"In a nutshell, what is the justification for granting the OVP confidential fund which is unprecedented in magnitude?" Lagman said.

"The amount of P500 million as confidential fund is for the safe implementation of projects and activities of OVP with proper security coordination and safety protocols for the benefit of the organization and the availing public," Zamora said.

Lagman asked if Duterte would forego her confidential funds, but Duterte's office said it will leave it to Congress, dominated by her allies.

The House terminated the plenary deliberations for the after Lagman, Manuel, and Castro had their turn.