Vice President Sara Duterte (Facebook)
Vice President Sara Duterte herself had said that she would follow Congress’ discretion as to the fate of her confidential funds in the proposed P5.768-trillion national budget for 2024.
House Speaker Martin Romualdez gave this reminder to the public on Thursday night, Oct. 5 as he personally addressed for the first time the planned realignment of the P650-million confidential funds of the Office of the Vice President (OVP) and the Department of Education (DepEd).
Both offices are under Vice President Duterte, who is the concurrent education secretary.
“I think people are reading too much into it, I think it’s a very, very straightforward and simple,” Romualdez said when a reporter asked about the realignment during a press conference at the Manila Golf and Country Club, Makati City.
“Borrowing the words of the Vice President, that even she says that she could live without it, and she would leave it to the sound discretion of the Congress for its proper disposition, under the circumstances we felt that it would best be realigned to the agencies and to the departments and into the areas where you just mentioned, that would be a priority,” the House leader said.
The same reporter asked whether or not the confidential fund realignment was a “strategic chess move” on the part of the Speaker and if was somehow linked to the 2028 presidential elections.
“That’s a bit too much speculation and I think people are reading too much into that, it’s nothing other than the fact as what you have seen, as a natural progression of the budget hearings, the budget briefings, and the plenary discussions,” Romualdez answered.
“It was the right thing to do, and even the Vice President said that if need be, she could live without it and it could be left to the sound discretion of the Congress, and it apparently is the right decision because even now the Senate is following suit,” he added.
OVP budget sponsor, Davao de Oro 1st district Rep, Maria Carmen Zamora, during the plenary debate on the OVP’s 2024 budget, said last Sept. 27: “The Office of the Vice President is consistent on its stand since last year and even up to this year that the office submits to the discretion and wisdom of Congress.”
Duterte was present in plenary that day.
The OVP has been alloted P500 million in confidential funds under next year’s budget, while the DepEd has been earmarked P150 million of the special lump sum funds.