MANILA -- The release of P125 million in confidential funds to the Office of Vice President Sara Duterte last year, even when the 2022 General Appropriations Act did not allocate any confidential fund for the OVP, is invalid but may not be a culpable violation of the 1987 Constitution, according to Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman.
Culpable violation of the Constitution is one of the grounds for impeachment.
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.
“It needs more intensive study, but I was just asked whether it’s a culpable violation of the Constitution. I said it may not be, because when you say culpable, it’s an extreme case of liability. But in this case, it’s possible that there was a mistake in the interpretation of the pertinent regulations,” Lagman explained.
“It’s invalid… You cannot unload funds from the President’s contingent fund, for a release in the nature of a confidential fund, when there is no confidential fund in the first place. Because, otherwise, it will be a derogation of the rights of the Congress," he added.
"Because the Congress said that no funds will be there, because we did not appropriate any funds, and even the Vice President then, [Leni] Robredo did not ask for those confidential funds. There is no confidential funds in the Office of the Vice President in 2022. The contingent funds cannot be used for confidential funds,” he added.
“It might be invalid, but it might not be a basis for a culpable violation of the Constitution,” Lagman noted.
The Commission on Audit has asked the OVP to further explain and provide more documents to support its use of the P125-million confidential funds in 2022.
Rep. Stella Quimbo revealed on Monday that the amount was spent in just 11 days. Duterte earlier said OVP’s confidential fund supports its programs and activities.
The COA intends to finish the OVP 2022 confidential fund audit by November 15 this year.