If the proposed 2019 national budget finally becomes a legal reality, the purported Vice President of the Philippines, Leni Robredo, will be in for a windfall. It was reported in the news media that Congress increased the budget of the Office of the Vice President (OVP) by P216-million, for a total of P664 million. Indeed, that is a large sum of taxpayers’ money.
It appears that the House of Representatives initially approved P448 million, but the Senate increased it to P664 million. When Noli de Castro was vice president, the annual OVP budget was less than the P216 million increase given to Robredo’s OVP.
The Department of Budget and Management proposed that P350 million of the OVP budget will be spent for operations and maintenance expenses, which includes financial assistance to the poor; P103 million will be for salaries; and the remaining P211 million will be for vehicles.
More specifically, Robredo is allotted P32 million for consultants, P25 million for travelling expenses, P12 million for rentals, P27 million for representation and P15.5 million for supplies.
The P12 million rental allotment is for the rented mansion in New Manila, Quezon City where she currently lives and for another facility for her security personnel.
A number of questions must be answered.
First, why does Robredo live in a mansion at public expense? Section 6, Article VII of the Constitution mandates an official residence only for the president.
Nothing in the charter indicates that the vice president is entitled to an official residence at public expense.
The Constitution does not mandate an official residence for the heads of the Legislative and Judicial branches of the government. Why then should the vice president, who does not head any of the three departments of the national government, be entitled to special treatment by Congress?
Second, why are the security personnel in the OVP entitled to live in a separate facility, a mansion even, as reported in another newspaper? The Robredo mansion in New Manila should be spacious enough to have living quarters for security personnel. Even the richest business tycoons in the country do not maintain separate mansions for their security groups.
Third, why is the vice president given a budget for financial donations to the poor? That should be the exclusive function of the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
Fourth, the P32 million for the salaries of consultants and the separate P103 million for the salaries of personnel in the OVP are large sums of money. Since the vice president does not exercise Executive power, what are those consultants and personnel for? The P103 million for salaries is too excessive for an office that has no real public functions outside of the usual flag-raising ceremonies during specific national holidays.
It is suspected that those consultants and excess personnel are hired to plot against President Rodrigo Duterte. Public money should not be spent for the salaries of such government bureaucrats who engage in partisan political activities.
Fifth, why is the vice president given so much money for representation and travelling expenses when she has no specific job to perform in the first place? It is suspected that the P27 million budget for representation expenses and the P25 million allotment for travel expenses will end up for partisan political activities, including Robredo’s attendance at anti-Duterte and pro-Liberal Party (LP) activities anywhere in the archipelago.
Sixth, does the OVP really need P211 million for vehicles in just one year? Just how many vehicles does Robredo need just to wait for a vacancy in the presidency in the first place? Even if the vice president needs several vehicles, P211 million is excessive for vehicle acquisition and maintenance, especially considering that Robredo already has a separate budget for travelling expenses.
Seventh, what possible supplies will the OVP need that will cost all of P15.5 million in one year? Donations to the poor are already covered by the P350 million allotted to Robredo. Since the P25 million for travelling expenses should be enough to cover fuel, where will that P15.5 million go?
Let’s face it. Unless the vice president is appointed to the Cabinet, the vice president’s sole function is to succeed the president in case of the latter’s death, resignation, permanent incapacity, or removal by impeachment. Robredo’s job, therefore, is to wait and that should not cost the taxpayers P664 million.
Is it possible that Congress allotted P664 million for Robredo to butter up to her in the remote event that she succeeds President Duterte? Whatever the reason may be, the indications are that Robredo, who heads the discredited LP, wastes millions of pesos of public money year after year after year.