THE Supreme Court has directed Vice President Sara Duterte, Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin and Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Amenah Pangandaman to comment on the petition filed last month seeking to declare as unconstitutional the transfer of the amount of P125 million last December 2022 from the Office of the President (OP) to the Office of the Vice President (OVP) for use as confidential funds.
In a resolution issued on November 14, 2023 but made public only on Monday, the Court en banc gave the respondents 10 days to comply with the directive.
On the other hand, the Court directed the petitioners to comply within five days with the requirement to submit an electronic copy of the petition and its annexes through electronic mail within 24 hours from the filing of the hard copies and a verified declaration that the electronic copy is a complete and true copy of the printed document and annexes filed with the court, as required in the Revised Guidelines on Submission of Electronic Copies of SC-bound Papers Pursuant to the Efficient Use of Paper Rule.
The petitioners include constitutionalist and former Commission on Elections chairman Christian Monsod, former Vice President Leni Robredo’s spokesperson Ibarra “Barry” Gutierrez III, former finance undersecretary Maria Cielo Magno, Imelda Nicolas, Katrina Monsod, Ray Paolo Santiago, Honorio Poblador III, former Comelec Commissioner Augusto Lagman, Vicente Romano III, Rex Drilon II and Miguel Jugo.
The petition stemmed from the OVP’s request from the DBM for P403.46 million for various purposes, with P250 million of these funds intended as confidential funds.
The petitioners noted that no confidential funds for the OVP were included in the 2021 and 2022 national budgets.
Subsequently, the DBM released P221.42 million to the OVP through a SARO to “cover Financial Assistance/Subsidy and Confidential Fund per Office of the President approval dated November 28, 2022.”
This amount included P125 million allocated for confidential funds and more than P 96.24 million for financial assistance/subsidy.
The Commission on Audit (COA) then released its 2022 audit report of the OVP, confirming that the office fully utilized the P125 million Confidential Fund that was transferred in December 2022.
Petitioners argued that the transfer of funds from the OP to the OVP is an exercise of legislative power, thus, a violation of Article VI, Section 1 of the 1986 Constitution which provides that legislative power belongs to the Senate and House of Representatives.
The petitioners also accused the respondents of consenting to the circumvention of auditing rules and accountability when they allowed the use of Contingent Fund of the OP for the confidential fund of the OVP through the special allotment release order (SARO).
They stressed that the public respondents unlawfully exercised broad discretion to determine where the funds will go.
“By exercising such broad discretion, public respondents contravened the Constitution and exercised the power to appropriate which is lodged in Congress,” the petitioners said.