MANILA — The Senate finance committed approved Thursday the proposed 2023 budget of the Office of the Vice President in just under an hour.
Vice President Sara Duterte personally attended the hearing to defend her office's budget.
Based on the budget proposal, the OVP asked for P709.3 million but the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) allotted P2.3 billion for the office. The figure is 223 percent higher than the office's previous budget.
Senate Minority Leader Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III asked Duterte if she would be able to handle a bigger allocation.
"With regard to 2022 budget proposal, it was submitted under the term of [former] Vice President Leni Robredo," said OVP chief budget officer Kelvin Teñido, who answered on behalf of Duterte.
"Upon assumption of office of Vice President Sara Duterte, the OVP consulted the DBM regarding the additional funding for 2023, specifically for the augmentation financial assistance subsidy and the medical assistance program," he added.
The budget for the OVP's "PagbaBAGo" campaign, which provides school supplies to students, and "welfare goods" for calamity victims also saw increases, Teñido explained.
Pimentel also questioned the P500-million confidential funds under the proposed OVP budget.
Duterte said the OVP received confidential funds from 2003 to 2012, adding that she leaves it up to senators decide on the matter.
"We leave it to the honorable members of the Senate to decide on this mater," she said.
Duterte said her office was in talks with the Government Service Insurance System for the purchase of a permanent OVP headquarters. Among the sites being eyed is the Coconut Palace, she added.
Early in the hearing, Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri asked his colleagues to extend "courtesy" to the OVP in approving its budget, which he said was given to past vice presidents.