Fishing expedition

Fishing expedition

Rabid as a dog that is aggressive, highly excitable, and displaying evidence of a depraved appetite, ‘fishers’ expected the OVP to explain how the funds were accessed.

Politics, the realm of governance and decision-making, is commonly seen as a noble endeavor to benefit the public. Nevertheless, in a complex world of political maneuverings, there is a practice called a "fishing expedition."

Described as an unethical tactic used by politicians and their allies to try and uncover damaging information about their rivals, we witness this in the upper and lower chambers.

The budget season is undoubtedly a time for fishing expeditions. Vice President Sara Z. Duterte, during last week's budget deliberation, was not spared from the rabid attacks in the House of Representatives and the Senate.

The reason? She was grilled at maximum temperature by the Makabayan bloc and opposition lawmakers on the Office of the Vice President's P221.424-million Confidential Fund that was released by the Office of the President and on the newly created Vice Presidential Security and Protection Group.

The critics' continuous emphasis on the alleged violation of laws regarding the 2022 OVP CF starkly contrasts with Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin's comprehensive presentation of the facts. He clarified that the fund request, approval, and expenditure were in full compliance with the law.

In response to the request made by the OVP, Bersamin said the OP approved the release of P221.424 million that was drawn from the latter's 2022 Contingent Fund. The amount was allocated for two specific purposes: (1) Financial Assistance/Subsidy amounting to P96.424 million; and (2) Confidential Fund for newly established satellite offices totaling P125 million.

The funds were release in accordance with Special Provision 1 within the 2022 Contingent Fund. This provision grants the President the authority to approve disbursements to address the financial needs of new or time-sensitive activities of government agencies, among other purposes, that must be implemented during the year.

As Vice President Sara, who had recently been elected, required funding for her new programs for the remainder of 2022, the President expressed support for this initiative. Subsequently, the funds were released, with the favorable recommendation of the Department of Budget and Management.

Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, in defense of the establishment of the VPSPG, parried attacks by individuals and groups that harbored deep hostility towards institutions responsible for maintaining peace and security.

Rabid as a dog that is aggressive, highly excitable, and displaying evidence of a depraved appetite, "fishers" expected the OVP to explain how the funds were accessed.

It's plain and simple. The OVP requested it and it was granted.

Besides, the law is not restrictive regarding the use of the President's contingency fund. How the law was worded is self-explanatory. It did not impose limits on the use of the funds.

It is wrong to say that the Confidential Funds are not in the budget because the Contingent Fund specifically authorized its release. The OP's 2022 Contingent Fund provision clearly states:

"Contingent Fund. The amount of Seven Billion Pesos (P7,000,000,000) appropriated herein shall cover the funding requirements of new or urgent activities or projects of national government agencies, GOCCs, and IGUs that need to be implemented or paid during the year, such as, but not limited to the following: (i) 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; (ii) requirements of newly created offices, or (iii) deficiencies in the appropriations for local and external travels of the President of the Philippines.

"Release of funds shall be made directly to the agencies concerned, except for GOCCs and IGUs which shall be made through the BTI, subject to the approval by the President of the Philippines… which shall be subject to the approval of the DBM. The DBM shall include information on the releases from the Contingent Fund in its quarterly and annual reports submitted to Congress."

The truth is that the "fishers" interpret the law to suit their agenda and threaten officials with impeachment. They did not listen during the hearing; they just asked questions, and demanded answers and explanations.

When given answers, they come up with attacks and twist reports.

Rather than relying on credible leads or facts, they cast a wide net, hoping to catch any information that could potentially harm their opponents. Their pursuit of power through unethical means undermines the foundations of fair governance, erodes public trust, and detracts from addressing pressing societal issues.

What a troubling aspect of modern democratic systems, isn't it?

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