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TIMELINE: Sen. Risa Hontiveros and VP Sara Duterte's word war on confidential funds

By NICK GARCIA Published Sep 14, 2023 6:08 pm

For days, social media and news headlines have been replete with the word war between Sen. Risa Hontiveros and Vice President Sara Duterte regarding confidential and intelligence funds (CIF).

Duterte, who's also the education secretary, is again requesting Congress for CIF worth P500 million for the Office of the Vice President (OVP) and P150 million for DepEd this 2024.

She previously told reporters that education is "intertwined" with national security. Asked about the breakdown, she noted that it being "confidential" means it cannot be discussed.

Congress, dominated by Duterte allies, approved the same request for the 2023 budget.

Making Duterte's CIF use more controversial is a Commission on Audit (COA) report that showed the OVP spending P125 million in confidential funds in 2022.

Led by then-vice president Leni Robredo, the OVP said there was no line item on confidential funds for the office's budget during that year. The national budget at that time didn't specify any CIF allocation to the OVP.

Duterte explained she requested the Office of the President (OP) for a transfer of funds which was granted through the Department of Budget and Management. The move, however, is a violation of the 1987 Constitution, as it's only Congress that has the power to appropriate funds.

Hontiveros has been among Duterte's staunchest critics regarding the CIF and is taking to social media to express her disapproval. Here's the timeline of their word war.

Sept. 4, 10:33 a.m.

Hontiveros on Facebook said the CIF must be "properly lodged" in other line items of the OVP, if not the actual intelligence agencies that need the fund more.

Sept. 4, 3:27 p.m.

Hontiveros reiterated Duterte's previous pronouncement that the OVP doesn't need CIF in 2024.

"There is no good reason why the Office of the Vice President should have confidential fund allocations larger than the combined confidential budgets of our top security agencies," she said.

The Department of National Defense (DND) and the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) have a combined CIF worth P438.2 million.

"As I have said before, let’s leave the security and intelligence work to the experts," Hontiveros said.

Sept. 4, 6:14 p.m.

Hontiveros shared a snippet of the budget hearing of the OVP in which she questions Duterte's request.

"We have different mandates from the other government agencies," Duterte said, adding that the CIF request was supposedly in accordance with a joint circular.

Sept. 4, 8:10 p.m.

Hontiveros shared another clip asking about the role of the OVP, and why it needs CIF.

Sept. 5, 9:17 a.m.

Hontiveros questioned why the OVP alone has a higher proposed CIF than the DND and NICA combined.

Sept. 5, 12:23 p.m.

Hontiveros reacted directly to the COA report, saying someone should be held responsible for the illegal transfer of funds to the OVP in 2022.

"Ano ito, multo? May ghost transfer?" she said.

She also shared another clip about the issue.

Sept. 5, 3:53 p.m.

Hontiveros shared a chart of how much CIF the OVP has since 2011.

Jejomar Binay got P6 million in 2011 and P9 million in 2012.

There was no allocation from 2013 to 2016, which continued during the time of Leni Robredo from 2016 to 2021.

Starting 2022, Duterte got P125 million. It rose to P500 million this year and is proposed to be the same in 2024.

Sept. 6, 9:08 a.m.

Hontiveros shared a clip asking why DepEd also needed CIF.

Sept. 6, 3:03 p.m.

Hontiveros reiterated her call to reallocate Duterte's proposed CIF worth P150 million and " focus on fulfilling its basic mandate of providing accessible, equitable, and quality basic education."

She made it a point to mention that it's larger than the DND's proposed P101 million.

Sept. 11, 5:49 a.m.

Seven days since Hontiveros took to social media to criticize Duterte, the vice president on Facebook issued a statement thanking President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. and other officials for standing by the OVP as "it faced the storm of attacks" regarding the CIF.

She gave a shout-out to Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin, DND Sec. Gilbert Teodoro, and Marikina 2nd District Rep. Stella Quimbo.

Duterte also called out House Deputy Minority Leader France Castro for criticizing the proposed CIF, saying the support she received "help counter the lies" of Castro and the Makabayan bloc in Congress.

She also named Hontiveros, who "amuses the nation with her flair for drama" and "could only wish" the 2022 funds were accessed illegally.

"It’s a shame they still cannot produce any proof to support their dirty imagination," Duterte said of Hontiveros. "The indignity they have caused Congress and the Senate should be enough for us not to give them serious attention."


Sept. 11, 12:59 p.m.

Hontiveros clapped back at Duterte, saying, "Trabaho lang, walang drama."

She reiterated Duterte's pronouncement about the OVP living without CIF.

"Bakit parang pinapawisan na yata kayo dyan, budget hearing pa lang? Lahat naman ng ahensya naglalabas ng proposed budget," she said. "Hindi kayo special."

She challenged Duterte to defend the proposal publicly if she was so confident about the confidential funds.

The senator also said the OVP seemingly has low standards already for calling her "amusing."

"Kung meron mang 'amusing,' yan ay yung halos kalahating oras na turo-turo, pag-iwas sa tanong, paikot-ikot na sagot, at pagbabalu-baluktot ng sitwasyon. Ginawa nilang perya ang basic na proseso ng pagbusisi ng pera ng bayan," Hontiveros said.

She also mentioned former senate presidents Franklin Drilon and Koko Pimentel's sentiments that it's indeed illegal and unconstitutional to transfer funds from the OP to the OVP.

Hontiveros also reiterated how the OVP has a higher proposed CIF than the DND and NICA.

She told Duterte that instead of personal attacks and avoidance of questions, Duterte should clarify public matters.

Sept. 11, 3:20 p.m.

Hontiveros shared a clip with the caption, "Bakit ba kailangan niya ng napakalaking pondo na walang audit o disclosure sa publiko?"

Sept. 11, 5:53 p.m.

Hontiveros reiterated why Duterte called her "amusing" when she's just doing her job as a senator.

Sept. 11, 8:33 p.m.

Hontiveros shared a clip with the caption, "Just work, no drama," in an apparent reference to Duterte saying she has a "flair for drama."

Sept. 12, 8:52 a.m.

Hontiveros reposted her tweet that shared a meme photo of Bea Alonzo's character Bobbie in Four Sisters and a Wedding saying, "Bakit parang kasalanan ko?"

The senator is reacting to Duterte's statement that thanked Marcos and several officials—while also criticizing her.

Sept. 12, 10:10 a.m.

Hontiveros issued a video form of her Sept. 11 statement, "with dramatic flair."

Sept. 12, 1:53 p.m.

Hontiveros suggested that the Philippine Coast Guard must get higher CIF, as its life is on the line while patrolling the West Philippine Sea.

"Sila po ang lagi’t laging humaharap sa napakalaki at napakadaming barko ng Tsina," she said.

Sept. 12

During an event in Davao City, Duterte told reporters on the ground that she has "no respect" for Hontiveros and Castro. She was asked why she mentioned the senators' names in her statement.

“Because I do not respect Ms. Castro and Ms. Hontiveros. I have no respect for them,” Duterte is quoted as saying.

Sept. 14

Hontiveros hit back at Duterte, saying she isn't asking for Duterte's respect.

"Ang hinihingi ko sa iyo, at ng taumbayan, ay accountability. Kaya, i-account nyo na lang kung para saan ang hinihingi nyong confidential funds,"she said.

Hontiveros said if Duterte cannot respect her colleagues, she should at least respect how public funds would be spent.

"Higit isang linggo na simula nang naghearing tungkol sa confidential funds," she said, "pero mas marami ka pang patutsada kaysa sa paliwanag."