MANILA — President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. personally saw the original request of Vice President Sara Duterte's office for P250 million in funds last year, which he turned over to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), a lawmaker said on Tuesday.
This was revealed by the sponsor of the Office of the President's (OP) budget during the plenary deliberations for the 2024 General Appropriations Act at the House of Representatives.
The Office of the Vice President (OVP) has been the subject of intense interpellations at the House over its P125-million confidential fund in 2022, which was released to the agency in December.
"There was indeed a request, but the request was P250 million," said ACT-CIS Rep. Erwin Tulfo, former Social Welfare Secretary and sponsor of the OP's budget.
"Only P125 million was granted and this is covered by rules and regulations covered by the release of the Office of the President this budget," he added.
Tulfo explained that the letter request was addressed to the DBM but the President read it.
"I believe the letter was given to the President , the President saw the letter and it was passed onto the DBM," Tulfo said. "The participation of the Office of the President is only the approval of the release of the P125 million to the Office of the Vice President."
"Inapprove po ng Pangulo dahil yan po ay covered ng good governance and social services kaya po na-approve po yan ng Office of the President," he told Kabataan party-list Rep. Raoul Manuel.
Manuel pointed out that the Commission on Audit noted that the OVP spent the money in 11 days, and that the P125-million fund is bigger than the Philippine Coast Guard's surveillance budget for 11 years.
Albay First District Rep. Edcel Lagman wanted a copy of the original OVP request. Tulfo committed to have the budget department send a copy of the request to the Office of the Majority Leader before the end of the budget debates for the OP.
Tulfo also said there were no savings for the 2021 contingent fund while no savings were declared for 2022 though the running total is P53 million.
He maintained that the confidential fund came from the contingent fund and is not an augmentation from savings. He said the release of funds was legal.
"The contingent fund is a special purpose fund for new or urgent projects or activities. So the request of the OVP came up after the GAA was approved, therefore the OP has to release funds because it was requested by the OVP," Tulfo said.
Vice President Sara Duterte earlier said the OVP’s confidential fund supports its programs which include tree planting, free bus rides, livelihood projects, and calamity assistance.