(UPDATED) -- Vice President Sara Duterte originally requested P250 million in confidential funds in 2022, as shown in her original request letter to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) obtained by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman.
The letter request signed by Duterte was addressed to DBM Secretary Amenah Pangandaman, dated August 22, 2022.
The confidential fund request was part of a larger request worth P403.46 million. All these combined, however, brought the total funds requested to P510.92 million.
"The Office of the Vice President expresses its gratitude for the recommendation on the recalibrated budget level under the FY 2023 National Expenditure Program. To ensure continuous operations of the OVP under the current year, may we request a total of P403.46 million for various purposes," Duterte's letter said.
The letter then lists down the following:
1. Augmentation of Financial Assistance/Subsidy: P144.72 million
"Since July 1, 2022, a total of seven (7) OVP Satellite Offices in Bacolod, Cebu, Dagupan, Davao, Surigao, Tacloban and Zamboanga were established, catering to an average of 100-150 clients per day per satellite office," Duterte explained.
"A total of P294.72 million is projected based on the actual turn out of approved applications for Medical Assistance. This amount exceeds the remaining allocated amount of P150 million for said programs. Thus the amount of P144.72 million which corresponds as the projected deficit is hereby requested, " Duterte said in her letter.
2. Augmentation of the Special Duty Allowance (SDA) for the Vice Presidential Security and Protection Group (VPSPG): P8.74 million
"The OVP has been providing SDA to the Vice Presidential Security detachment, patterned per Presidential Security Group arrangements. For FY 2022, the amount of P5.58 million is appropriated to cover a maximum of 95 security personnel only. With the creation of the Vice Presidential Security and Protection Group with 450 personnel complement, an additional amount of P8.74 million is hereby requested," Duterte said.
3. Additional 192 coterminous and contractual positions: P107.46 million
"The OVP intends to rollout several projects this year to include 10 the establishment of 3 additional satellite offices, 20 augmentation for the Libreng Sakay program, 3. rollout of 3 OVP Food trucks to serve as mobile kitchen for nutritional programs and disaster response activities, and 40 implementation of Peace 911, a peace building initiative in Marawi," Duterte said.
"To fully implement said projects, a total of 192 positions with an annual PS budget requirement of P104.46 million following the applicable tranche for FY 2022 is hereby requested," Duterte said.
4. Confidential Funds: P250 million
"For and in consideration of the safe implementation of the various projects and activities under the Good Governance Program and the conduct of official engagements, and functional representation in international and domestic events as instructed by the President, the CF amount of P250 million is hereby requested," Duterte said.
Lagman got a copy of the letter during the Office of the President's budget hearing and cited this letter in saying that the fund transfer was illegal.
"This letter addressed to the Secretary of the Department of Budget and management is a request for augmentation of certain items in the Office of the Vice President," said Lagman.
"Also it refers to confidential funds. So the question is, was there a proper augmentation? And the second question is, can confidential funds in the Office of the Vice President be augmented when the 2022 GAA appropriated or allotted zero for this particular item of expenditure?" he added.
For Lagman, the transfer or release by DBM of P125 million from the Office of the President's Contingent Fund is flawed for the following reasons:
- The constitution prohibits transfer of funds except with respect to constitutional officers like the president relative to savings for augmentation.
- Transfer for augmentation must be from savings.
- The transfer or release is to augment deficiencies in the item of expenditure however in this case there is nothing to be augmented because the OVP has a zero appropriation for confidential funds in 2022.
The Office of the President, the Commission on Audit, the Department of Budget and Management have all maintained the legality of the release of the funds to the OVP, because it was taken from the Contingent Fund which Congress authorizes for new and urgent expenses that were not anticipated during budget preparation and approval.
The 2022 budget was approved by the past administration.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. personally saw the original request of Vice-President Sara Duterte's office for P250 million in funds last December 2022, which he turned over to the DBM.
This was revealed by the sponsor of the OP's budget during the plenary deliberations for the 2024 General Appropriations Act at the House of Representatives.
The 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 2022.
"There was indeed a request but the request was P250 million," 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." Tulfo 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." Tulfo said.
"Inapprove po ng pangulo dahil yan po ay covered ng good governance and social servcices kaya po napprove po yan ng Office of the President," Tulfo would tell Kabataan Rep. Raoul Manuel.
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, Manuel said.