EXPLAINER: What is the Contingent Fund and who has accessed it?

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 12 2023 05:29 PM

MANILA — The Office of the Vice President (OVP) was not the only recipient of funds from the 2022 Contingent Fund.

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) reported on its website that, as of December 31, 2022, about P2.659 billion of the 2022 Contingent Fund had been accessed by nine agencies.

Aside from the controversial P221.42-million transfer to the OVP, which included the P125-million confidential fund, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) also got P8.9 million, the Department of Interior and Local Government got P352.900 million, the Department of Justice got P14.957 million, the Department of National Defense got P1.848 billion, the Department of Public Works and Highways got P72.47 million and the Department of Transportation got P32.37 million.

Also getting P107.97 million from the Contingent Fund were two agencies under the Office of the President:

• National Intelligence Coordinating Agency - P24.673 million
• Office of Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity - P83.3 million

Funding for 'new or urgent activities or projects'

The 2022 General Appropriations Act appropriated P7 billion for the Contingent Fund to cover the funding requirements of new or urgent activities or projects of national government agencies, GOCCs, and LGUs that need to be implemented or paid during the year.

The provision, as worded by Congress, lists examples of these new or urgent requirements but explicitly states that the contingent fund is not limited to the following: 

1) legal obligation of the government arising from final and executory decisions of competent authorities, such as compromise agreements, arbitral awards, mediation settlement agreement, and professional services in connection thereto; 

2) requirements of newly created offices; or 

3) deficiencies in the appropriations for local and external travels of the President of the Philippines.

The one limitation that this provision imposes is that it cannot be used for vehicles.

"In no case shall this Fund be used for the purchase of motor vehicles, including any improvements thereon," Special Provision 1 states,

The Contingent Fund provision as worded also states that the funds may be accessed upon presidential approval.

Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin referred precisely to this Special Provision in explaining why the Office of the President approved the transfer of funds to the OVP.

OVP confidential funds transferred from Contingent Fund

The use of the 2022 Contingent Fund has been assailed by critics because it had been identified as the source of the confidential funds accessed by the OVP in 2022, despite the absence of a specific line item in the 2022 GAA.

The 2022 GAA was written and approved by the previous administration. 

Then Vice President Leni Robredo had no such fund. But the 2022 budget was effective both in the last six months of Robredo's vice presidency and Vice President Sara Duterte's first six months in office.

Marikina Rep. Stella Quimbo, House Appropriations Committee senior vice chair, explained that the confidential fund always exists in the budget, not as a line item but as an object of expenditure.

"Iyung notion na ang confidential expense itself na dapat meron line item is technically wrong," Quimbo said.

Duterte on Monday thanked her allies for defending the 2022 transfer.