Senate panel okays P2.3B OVP budget

In less than an hour, the proposed budget for the Office of the Vice President in the amount of P2.3 billion, including P500 million in confidential funding, was approved on Thursday by the Senate Committee on Finance.

During the budget deliberation, Senate President Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri appealed to his fellow lawmakers to keep proceedings short as a “courtesy” to Vice President Sara Z. Duterte who attended the hearing physically.

“I’m here because time and time again, whenever there is a budget deliberation of the OVP, we would always support the budget of the OVP, whomever the vice president maybe,” Zubiri said in his manifestation.

“We give courtesy to that very important office. I’m here also appealing to my colleagues that we give the same courtesy that we have given to the previous vice presidents when it comes to their budget,” he added.

Among the lawmakers present in the hearing, only Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III inquired about the proposed budget of the OVP for the fiscal year 2023, which is 226.58 percent higher compared to the current budget of the office.

In her budget presentation before lawmakers, Duterte said her office only requested P709 million from the Department of Budget and Management, however, a total of P2.3 billion was given to them by the agency.

Pimentel asked Duterte how did the DBM come up with the budget for the OVP, as well as its plans with the higher allocation.

“So the information that reached me is correct that the OVP only requested P709 million and yet the NEP (National Expenditure Program) recommendation is P2.3 billion,” he said.

“This is P1.6 billion higher. May we know if you are really prepared to ramp up your activities because you only requested a budget of P709 million?” he added.

In response, Duterte tapped Kelvin Tenido, the OVP’s budget officer who stated that the initial proposed budget was submitted by former Vice President Leni Robredo.

Leni budget

“With regard to the 2022 budget proposal, it was submitted under the term of ice President Leni Robredo. Upon the assumption of office of Vice President Sara Duterte, the OVP have consulted the DBM regarding the additional funding for 2023,” Tenido said.

He explained that the additional funding requested by the OVP will be used for the augmentation of several projects of Duterte such as livelihood, medical and welfare assistance during disaster emergencies.

‘P500-M confidential fund’

Pimentel also inquired about the purpose of the controversial P500 million confidential fund that was requested by Duterte from DBM.

But just before he finished asking, Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, chair of the Senate Committee on Finance, interrupted him and said that the OVP had been receiving confidential funds for several years.

“Just to place things in perspective, the OVP received confidential and intelligence funds for 13 years from the year 2003 to 2012,” Angara said.

In her response, Duterte did not directly answer the question as to why she asked for the P500 million worth of confidential funds, which is higher compared to the previously appropriated fund for the specific item.

“I’d like to repeat the manifestation of Senator Angara that since 2003 to 2012, there were confidential and intelligence funds granted for the OVP,” she stressed.

Likewise, Duterte also said that she will leave it to the lawmakers to decide whether they would let them keep the P500 million confidential fund in the 2023 budget.

“As to the amounts and the propriety of confidential funds, as we have manifested in the House of Representatives, we leave it to the honorable members of the Senate to decide on the matter,” she added.

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