By Kyanna Angela Bulan
CONGRESSMEN on Wednesday swiftly approved the Office of the Vice President’s (OVP) P2.31 billion budget for 2023, which is more than three times higher than this year, without asking questions.
Lawmakers approved the funding as a parliamentary courtesy to a co-equal government branch.
Michael Henry Ll. Yusingco, a lawyer and political analyst, said the only possible reason for the budget increase is the established precedent of the previous vice-president.
“Any budget allocation to the OVP should merely be for administrative purposes,” he said in a Facebook Messenger chat. “The practice of allocating funds beyond this mandate must stop, unless a law is passed giving the OVP specific functions and duties.”
Under the budget, P154.31 million was allotted for personnel services, P42.5 million for capital outlays, and the biggest chunk for maintenance and other operating expenses at P2.09 billion.
The latter includes the vice-president’s expenses for travel, utility, communication, representation, rent as well as for supplies and materials, professional services, financial assistance and confidential funds.
Mr. Yusingco said the confidential funds raise red flags.
“First, such a huge amount contradicts the austerity theme pushed by the administration,” he said. “Second, the acceptance that public funds can be exempted from audit because of national security. Third, there is absolutely no legal basis for the OVP to get confidential funds.”
Vice President Sara Duterte-Carpio justified the budget increase by citing the need for more funds for socioeconomic services.
The budget also supports the vice-president’s programs on medical and burial assistance, disaster operations, food boxes, food trucks, livelihood programs and free rides.
Ms. Carpio’s programs are similar to those of her predecessor, Dennis F. Quilala, a political science professor at the University of the Philippines, said in an e-mail.
But he questioned some of these including free rides to commuters, saying this should go to the Transportation department.
The Transportation department in a statement said the free ride program is unsustainable, but noted that it would like to help Ms. Carpio enforce the project.
“We fully support the proposed P2.31-billion budget of the Office of the Vice President for 2023, the bulk of which will go towards good governance, projects and the needed social services,” Party-list Rep. Elizaldy S. Co told the hearing.
Party-list Reps. Raoul Danniel A. Manuel, France L. Castro and Arlene D. Brosas were prevented from asking questions at the hearing and were told to ask the questions in plenary.