VP Duterte explains why she singled out Castro and Hontiveros: 'I have no respect for them'

“I have no respect for them.”

This was what Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte said on Tuesday, Sept. 12, when asked why she singled out ACT Teachers Party-list Rep. France Castro and opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros when she issued an earlier statement against those questioning her office’s use of confidential funds in 2022.

VPSD_lawmakers.jpg(From left) Senator Risa Hontiveros, Vice President Sara Duterte, and ACT Teachers Partylist Rep. France Castro (Photos from Senate PRIB, OVP, and Rep. Castro’s Facebook page)

“Because I do not respect Ms. Castro and Ms. Hontiveros. I have no respect for them,” Duterte stressed in an interview at the Cleanergy Park in Punta Dumalag, Davao City, where she oversaw the release of 152 Hawksbill Turtle hatchlings.

A statement from the Vice President on Monday, Sept. 11, thanked President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and several officials of his administration for showing their support and backing the P125-million confidential and intelligence funds (CIFs) the Office of the Vice President (OVP) requested from the Office of the President (OP) in December 2022 despite the lack of line item for it under the 2022 General Appropriations Act (GAA) for the OVP.

She then attacked both Hontiveros and Castro, but did not mention two former Senate presidents and legal luminaries—Franklin Drilon and Senator Koko Pimentel—who also criticized the transfer of the 2022 CIF to her office.

In her answer to Duterte’s tirade against her offices’ critics, Hontiveros insisted that the OVP is not special for its budget not to undergo due process.

She dared the country’s second-highest official: “If you’re so confident about those confidential funds, then defend them publicly.”

The Vice President rejected the senator’s accusation that she wants the OVP to receive special treatment.

“Hindi naman kami ever nagsabi na special ang (We never said that the) Office of the Vice President (is special),” she said.

“In fact, we respected the procees doon sa (there at the) budget hearing ng (of the) House of Representatives and ng (the) Senate,” she claimed despite walking away while Castro was still raising questions during the House panel hearing on the OVP’s proposed P2.36-billion budget for 2024.

The official explained that they repeatedly explained the proposal, which they based on their work.

“The discretion, the decision whether to grant confidential funds is really up to Congress kasi sila ‘yung merong (because they have the) power of the purse,” Duterte said.

The issue on the OVP’s access to the CIF stemmed from the fact that there was no line item for it under the budget approved for former vice president Leni Robredo.

When Duterte’s allies insisted that there was a heading for it in the proposed budget, Drilon said that was because government agencies use a standard template for their budget proposals.

Lawyer Barry Gutierrrez, former lawmaker and former spokesman to Robredo, also explained that pro-Duterte officials were merely referring to an “account category heading” and not a line item.