Hontiveros: Palace’s defense of OVP’s confidential funds raises more questions

Senator Risa Hontiveros on Monday, September 18 said the Executive department’s multiple attempts to explain the controversial confidential funds that were transferred from the Office of the President (OP) to the Office of the Vice President (OVP) last year are raising more questions about its legality. 


Hontiveros pointed this out after a senior member of the House appropriations panel, Rep. Stella Luz-Quimbo described the move as legal under the 2022 General Appropriations Act (GAA). 


According to Quimbo, after being briefed by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), the source of the funds were from the contingent funds in the 2022 national expenditure program (NEP). 


The Office of the Executive Secretary (OES) had earlier defended the action of the OP of allowing the release of P221.424-million from its office to the OVP, after the latter was requested funds.


“The more they clarify, medyo lumalabo, kasi paiba iba yung mga paliwanag nila. Ano ba talaga? (It becomes more vague the more they try to clarify, because their explanations differ. So what is the truth)?” Hontiveros said in an interview on ANC’s Headstart.


“Confidential fund ba yan mula sa (that was from the) OP or OVP? Ay hindi pala. Kasi tumutol ang mga tao, pano naging (it’s not. But because people opposed it, now how did it become a) confidential fund transfer when there was no line-item budget for OVP to which any savings from OP could have been properly transferred to augment that OVP line item budget?” she pointed out.


“So nag iba na naman ang paliwanag nila (so now they have another explanation), from OES to DBM, to OP, ngayon, ang source pala ay (now they are saying the source is) contingent funds,” she noted.


“So if something had been straigthforward, defensible and accountable, dapat naging simple lang ang paliwanag (they explanation should have been more simple). The more na paiba-iba ang paliwanag nila, nagmumukhang di maliwanag, mas malabo (the more they change their explanation, it becomes more vague, more ambiguous),” she pointed out.


“So now our attention has been drawn to the contingent funds from OP,” Hontiveros said of the funds, which she said should now be subject to scrutiny not only by Congress but by the people.


With Executive officials claiming that the funds were technically released and not transferred makes it more “suspect.”


“So if they will hold on to their explanation na in-augment ng OP yung OVP confidential funds, dapat may prior announcement or declaration of savings. So ang hirap eh, they have to backtrack, not to cover up their trail, but to somehow produce a paper trail para ipaliwanag itong transfer of confidential funds,” she said.

“Kung mas pipiliin naman nila yung paliwanag na galing sa contingent funds, still greater accountability has to be demonstrated about that. Walang kawala eh (there’s no excuse),” she pointed out.


Asked if the OVP could have committed technical malversation, Hontiveros said she cannot still be certain. 


“I’m not sure about technical malversation because there are technical requirements to prove that,” she said.


“But what’s apparent to me as a lawmaker, as a member of society, they were not completely forthright about this confidential funds. Kasi bakit may lumitaw, di nila maipaliwanag ng klaro, ang dami pang patutsada tungkol sa (because why did they have to raise, when they couldn’t explain clearly, things about) drama, respect. Simpleng tanong lang ito (The question is just simple), what is asked for is plain and simple accountability,” she pointed out.


“And if you can’t give that at the outset, then probably there’s something not right, or maybe there’s something wrong. And moving forward, responsibilidad namin yan sa kongreso na iwasto (It’s our responsibility in Congress to fix),” she reiterated.


“The money isn’t even ours, that’s the money of the people, the taxpayers. So it’s only proper that a clear and proper accounting (of the OVP budget) be made,” she emphasized.


At the same time, Hontiveros reiterated that confidential and intelligence funds (CIF) should only be given to government agencies that are in charge of national security concerns and not to departments that have nothing to do with such kind of mandate.


“Intelligence funds should be lodged under intelligence agencies. We can leave it to the experts and let them make an accounting of those every budget seasons,” she stressed.