Makabayan lawmakers file 3rd SC petition vs OVP secret funds

Makabayan lawmakers file 3rd SC petition vs OVP secret funds

By Jomel R. Paguian

MAKABAYAN bloc lawmakers filed before the Supreme Court (SC) on Monday a third petition against Vice President Sara Duterte-Carpio regarding her reported use of P125 million in confidential and intelligence funds (CIF) last year.

Partylist Representatives Raoul Danniel A. Manuel, Arlene D. Brosas, and France L. Castro, in their petition, asked the High Court to declare as unconstitutional and void the release of secret funds from the Office of the President (OP) to the Office of the Vice President (OVP) in December last year and sought restitution of the said amount.

The petitioners also argued that the P125 million in confidential funds should be reviewed by the Commission on Audit (CoA), similar to its scrutiny of regular public funds.

The lawmakers emphasized that only Congress determines the allocation and purpose of confidential funds. “The Office of the President overstepped the limits of its power by establishing a budget item or appropriation, when it is Congress, not the Executive, which has the power to approve and promulgate the appropriations law,” read part of a copy of the petition obtained from one of the petitioners.

They argued that the case is “ripe for adjudication,” citing the unauthorized request, grant, release, and use of money from the National Treasury without an appropriation authorized by the law.

“President Marcos Jr.’s release of P125 million confidential funds to the Office of the Vice President without congressional authorization is a grave abuse of discretion and a violation of the Constitution,” said Ms. Brosas in a statement.

In Filipino, she added, “The money of the people is at stake here, and it should not be used as a fund vulnerable to corruption.”

Aside from the vice president, the petition was filed against respondents Executive Secretary Lucas P. Bersamin (on behalf of President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. who is protected by presidential immunity from suit), Budget Secretary Amenah F. Pangandaman, and Commission on Audit Chairperson Gamaliel A. Cordoba.

Bayan Muna Chairman Neri Javier Colmenares, former Social Welfare Secretary Judy M. Taguiwalo, along other former lawmakers, were named petitioners aside from the Makabayan bloc representatives.

The first High Court petition regarding the OVP secret funds was filed by former Election chief Christian S. Monsod, former Finance Undersecretary Maria Cielo D. Magno and other lawyers last month to question the constitutionality of the transfer of confidential funds.

A separate petition was filed a week later by another group of lawyers and concerned citizens led by former Supreme Court senior associate justice Antonio T. Carpio to challenge the legality of confidential funds itself.

In response to the first filed petition, Ms. Duterte-Carpio said she welcomes discussion on the legality of fund transfer. “We hope that the Supreme Court’s wisdom will pave the way for an end to this issue,” she said in a video statement in Filipino.

“This obsession for confidential funds has to stop, and Petitioners ask the Honorable Supreme Court to put a stop to this anomaly that has drained so much from our public funds for years,” the petition read.