A senior member of the House appropriations panel insisted on Sunday that the controversial confidential funds that were transferred from the Office of the President (OP) to the Office of the Vice President (OVP) last year were perfectly legal under the 2022 budget law.
Marikina Rep. Stella Luz Quimbo, senior vice chair of the House appropriations committee, noted that the P125 million released to the OVP last year was allowed by a provision of the General Appropriations Act of 2022.
Quimbo disclosed she was recently briefed by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), as she was tasked as the budget sponsor for the contingent funds.
She explained that during the time of Vice President Sara Duterte’s predecessor, Leni Robredo, there was no allocation for confidential expenses under the OVP’s budget for 2022.
After the transition to a new vice president, there was a request from the OVP for DBM for “additional funds for a number of activities under a program.”
Requested by OVP
“There was also a request for confidential expenses and because it happened during the year , the DBM had to look into the nature of the request, and based on their assessment, they found that they can source the funds from the contingent funds,” Quimbo said in a radio interview.
Under the special provision for contingent funds in the 2022 national expenditure program, the purpose for the expenses has to be “new or urgent,” according to Quimbo.
The activity, as included in the request by the OVP, “pertains to something new,” Quimbo said as she recalled her recent briefing with DBM officials.
However, the request is subject to approval by the OP, which approved the OVP’s request for additional funds for its activities.
“When the DBM assessed it, they approved the use of contingent funds for that project, which includes confidential expenses,” she added.
She also stressed that there was a line item for such expenses, noting that a line item pertains to either a program, activity, or project that uses expenses such as confidential ones.
The budgets for the OP and OVP breezed through the House appropriations panel after lawmakers extended a “parliamentary courtesy” to the two highest offices in the country.
However, Quimbo noted that this doesn’t mean that their budgets are automatically approved by Congress.
She said that the plenary deliberations, which will begin on Tuesday, will give lawmakers time for more questioning and a “full debate” on the budget requests of the OP and the OVP. INQ
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