OVP budget raises inquiries from solons, citizens

·2 min read
Philippine Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte attends an economic briefing following President Ferdinand Marcos Jr's first State of the Nation Address, in Pasay City, Metro Manila, Philippines, July 26, 2022. The Office of the Vice President (OVP) is requesting Congress a budget for 2023 amounting to P2.31 billion, P500 million of which is dedicated for confidential funds. REUTERS/Lisa Marie David
Philippine Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte attends an economic briefing following President Ferdinand Marcos Jr's first State of the Nation Address, in Pasay City, Metro Manila, Philippines, July 26, 2022. The Office of the Vice President (OVP) is requesting Congress a budget for 2023 amounting to P2.31 billion, P500 million of which is dedicated for confidential funds. REUTERS/Lisa Marie David

The Makabayang Koalisyon ng Mamamayan (MAKABAYAN) bloc questioned the proposed budget of the Office of the Vice President (OVP) led by Sara Duterte.

Former Alliance of Concerned Teacher (ACT) representative Antonio Tinio pointed out on Saturday (September 3) that it is unusual for the OVP to get such a large amount for a “discretionary pork barrel.”

“This is unprecedented in our history. No public official, aside from the president, has been given a discretionary pork barrel this huge,” he said. Kabataan Party-list Rep. Raoul Manuel also mentioned that they will not let the “vice presidential pork” slide.

OVP is requesting Congress an amount of P2.31 billion, P500 million of which is dedicated for confidential funds. This is a stark contrast to former Vice President Leni Robredo’s FY 2022 budget of P900 million. Under Robredo’s term, there was never an allocation for confidential funds.

Confidential funds may be used for purchasing information for peace and order, buying supplies for confidential operations, paying rewards to informants, and prevention of illegal activities that are a danger to the concerned agency, among other purposes.

Tinio highlighted the need for the budget to be scrutinized and added that, “The Makabayan bloc is ready to make suggestions as to which programs will benefit more from these funds.”

Concerned citizens also questioned the budget being proposed by the government in the National Expenditure Program. One of them is Public Budget Analyst Zy-za Suzara.

“Historically, the OVP doesn’t get an allocation for Confidential Funds,” she said in a tweet on Wednesday (August 31). “Half a billion pesos is a huge amount which could have been allocated for poverty reduction programs. Hello? Poverty incidence rose as per latest PSA [Philippine Statistics Authority] data.”

She added, “Every peso counts. There is an ever greater imperative to be fiscally prudent in allocating resources bec of the tight fiscal space. Mataas ang deficit. Mataas ang debt-to-GDP ratio. Sana naman iyong bahagi ng inuutang natin mapunta sa tao.

(The deficit is high. The debt-to-GDP ratio is high. Hopefully part of the amount that we borrowed from others will go to the people.)

Mark Ernest Famatigan is a news writer who focuses on Philippine politics. He is an advocate for press freedom and regularly follows developments in the Philippine economy. The views expressed are his own.

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