AT LEAST P3 billion in public funds was illegally transferred to the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) to finance its free wifi project without congressional consent, according to a lawmaker.

MMDA later bid out a P1.1-billion project for the capital region’s fiber optic backbone development, Northern Samar Rep. Paul R. Daza told a House of Representatives hearing on Tuesday.

Mr. Daza said he got copies of the contract and checks worth P500 million and P600 million dated April 28 signed by former Information and Communications Technology acting Secretary Emmanuel Rey R. Caintic.

At the hearing of the House committee on good government investigating the budget transfer, Mr. Caintic said his agency’s legal department had come out with a legal opinion against the budget transfer.

“In spite of the adverse opinion of your legal department, you proceeded with the downloading of the funds to the MMDA and other local government units?” Mr. Daza asked.

Mr. Caintic said he approved the transfer because he did not see anything wrong with it. “There was no anomaly because we followed the Commission on Audit rules in the proper transfer.”  

Mr. Daza said the Department of Information and Communications Technology also did not get a written consent from the Budget department for the fund transfer.

The lawmaker said Congress should include specific provisions against inter-agency budget transfers in the 2023 budget bill.

The House panel ordered MMDA and DICT officials to submit all bids, contracts and other documents in time for the next hearing on Dec. 13. — Beatriz Marie D. Cruz