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Monday, May 27, 2024

Sara ordered to answer petition on P125-m confidential fund use

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The Supreme Court has ordered Vice President Sara Duterte to answer a petition challenging the constitutionality of the P125-million confidential funds spent by her office last year.

The High Court also directed Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin and Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman to comment on the petition on the funds transferred from the Office of the President to the OVP in November 2022.

Aside from challenging the constitutionality of the transfer, petitioners have asked the SC to order the OVP, which reportedly spent the confidential funds in just 11 days, to return the P125 million to the national treasury.

Duterte, Bersamin and Pangandaman were given 10 days to comment on the petition.

Last month, petitioners led by lawyers Christian Monsod, Katrina Monsod, Barry Gutierrez and RP Santiago said the transfer of contingency funds from the Office of the President to Duterte’s office as confidential funds and expenses was unconstitutional.

The petitioners were joined by former Commission on Elections commissioner Gus Lagman, Commission on Filipinos Overseas chairperson Imelda Nicolas and Enteng Romano.

“We are now working closely with the Office of the Solicitor General on this,” the DBM said.

The petitioners said the transfer of funds from the Office of the President to the OVP was an exercise of legislative power.

“Under the doctrine of separation of powers, the power of appropriation falls exclusively within the domain of the legislative branch of government. Congress decides how the budget will be spent, what programs, activities, and projects (PAP) to fund, and the amounts of money to be spent for each PAP,” their petition said.

“Verily, the appropriation done by the DBM (Department of Budget and Management) is a clear usurpation of the legislative powers of the Congress of the Philippines to create and fund an item that has not been done so by the Congress itself.”

The petitioners argued there is no “delegated legislative power” in the transfer and that confidential funds do not fall under the funding allowed by the contingent fund.

The transfer, they said, was also a circumvention of accountability.

Duterte, who earlier agreed to drop her bid for P650 million in confidential and intelligence funds for next year, welcomed the filing of the petition, saying this would give her a chance to clear her name.

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