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Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Lawmakers question P2.69 billion confidential funds for Davao mayor

House Deputy Minority Leader France Castro on Monday said the P2.697 billion in confidential funds reportedly spent by the mayor of Davao City over eight years could have been utilized more effectively to benefit the education sector, specifically by providing much-needed support to teachers.

Castro, of ACT Teachers party-list group, said these funds were spent from 2016 to 2022 during Vice President Sara Duterte’s term as Davao City mayor.

ACT Teachers stated the amount Sunday in a press statement and urged the Commission on Audit to thoroughly investigate how the funds were spent in Davao.

If allocated differently, Castro, nominee of ACT Teachers party-list group, said the P2.697 billion could have been used to grant a P1,000 city allowance to approximately 17,000 Davao City teachers for more than 13 years.

“This funding could have greatly contributed to improving the quality of education by ensuring that teachers had access to essential teaching materials and resources, ultimately benefiting the learning experience of countless students at least for Davao City,” Castro said.

She emphasized the need for transparency and accountability in public financial management, such as “independent audit and oversight.”

She also urged government officials in   Davao City and beyond to reevaluate their budgeting priorities and ensure that funds are allocated in a manner that aligns with the needs of the Filipino people.

Senator Risa Hontiveros meanwhile asked if China is also “taking over” Davao City as she noted that the Senate should look at the questionable P460 million annual confidential and intelligence funds (CIFs) of the Davao City government from 2019 to 2022.

Hontiveros said this was based on the findings of the Commission on Audit (COA).

“While Davao City faces existing security challenges, are these challenges really so much worse than China’s incursions and abuses in our territorial waters?” she   further questioned.

She noted this was in stark contrast to the CIFs of big cities like Makati, Manila and Cebu which did not even reach P100 million.

She pointed out that public funds are not the automated teller machines (ATMs) of politicians.

According to the opposition lawmaker, there should be clear guidelines and limitations in the use of such funds.

She said the 1987 Constitution empowers local government units (LGUs) with fiscal autonomy, and LGUs are mandated to ensure peace and order within their jurisdictions.   However, there should be a reasonable threshold on the amount that LGUs – like national agencies- may allocate as CIFs, to promote accountability and transparency.

On the assertion of Sen. Ronald Dela Rosa that politics was behind the questions  on the Vice President’s CIF, Hontiveros pointed out Robredo had no confidential funds.

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