Sara willing to forego confidential funds

Vice President Sara Z. Duterte is willing to forego the P500 million confidential funds allocated in her office should the House of Representatives ask to remove it, a lawmaker disclosed Thursday.

Davao de Oro 1st district Rep. Maria Carmen Zamora, sponsor of the Office of the Vice President’s budget, said this in response to Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman’s question about why the OVP wanted to have confidential funds when surveillance is not included in its mandate.

“In the spirit of patriotism and frugality, considering the limited fiscal space which resulted in the decrease in appropriation of most government agencies, could the distinguished sponsor ask the Honorable Vice President if she is willing to forego of her confidential funds?” Lagman asked Zamora during the plenary debates on the 2023 General Appropriations Bill.

“Mr. Speaker if I may, your Honor, the Honorable Vice President has just shared it with me now that she’s saying, she defers to the decision of the majority of this honorable Congress,” Zamora said.

Lagman, however, clarified that he did not ask it to disrespect Duterte but rather for the enlightenment of the members of the House.

Aside from the confidential funds, the OVP also requested a large budget.

The House Committee on Appropriations on 14 September ended the OVP budget briefing by just around 10 minutes, without questions, after noting that inquiries would be made at the plenary level.
Deputy Minority Leader France Castro of ACT Teachers Partylist, meanwhile, stressed the allocation of such a huge amount was “unprecedented.”

The OVP was asked to give a “physical and financial plan” during the one-hour interpellation that featured inquiries from members of the minority such as Lagman, Castro and Rep. Raoul Manuel of the Kabataan Partylist.

Castro welcomed Duterte’s decision to let the lower chamber decide whether to approve the confidential funds. Still, she also called for the presentation of the financial plan that will serve as the foundation for the allocation.

Opposition lawmakers criticized Duterte’s request for a P2.3 billion budget for the OVP, which includes the P500 million in confidential funds, as it is nearly three times more than the P1.2 billion budget that former Vice President Leni Robredo proposed for 2022.

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