The subject of everybody’s newsfeed for the last week was the confidential funds of the Office of the Vice President of the Philippines (OVP), and consequently, the Department of Education (DepEd), of which Vice President Sara Duterte serves as Secretary.
In a dramatic turn of events at the budget hearing for the country’s 2024 National Budget, Marikina Representative Stella Luz Quimbo revealed on September 25 that the OVP spent P125 million in confidential funds in 11 to 19 days from December 2022 to January 2023.
The House of Representatives did not seem too happy with this revelation and has realigned the requested P600 million confidential funds of the OVP for 2024 to other civilian agencies focusing on intelligence and security.
As is, the Commission on Audit (COA) is set to complete the audit of this 11-day confidential fund expense in November 2023, and the House of Representatives is hoping to get an explanation of how the funds were allocated between December 2022 to January 2023.
Netizens have taken to the internet about their dissatisfaction with the P125 million spent over 11 days, an allocation the public cannot easily request an audit of due to its confidential nature.
The issue has become a feasting ground for memes, satires and humor among frustrated Filipinos who are in disbelief at this massive public expense.
A personal favorite is a meme of a typical Instagram poem stating:
Paano naubos ni Sara
Sa loob ng 11 days
Ang perang kikitain mo
Sa loob ng 517 years?”
The post by a certain “Kit” garnered 68,000 impressions, 4,300 comments, and 21,000 shares as of September 30, 2023.
If an average Filipino would have to work for 517 years to earn P127 million, how huge is P125 million?
In the Consumption Patterns Among Filipino Households, 2021 data released by the Congressional Policy and Budget Research Department House of Representatives in December 2022, a Filipino household spends an average of P228,800 to survive.
This means that the P125 million budget could have easily covered 546 households for a year.
With the average cost of college education in the country at P50,000 (as stated by the Commission on Higher Education) per semester, the P125 million could have covered two semesters of college for 2,500 students.
The P125 million could also cover the 41,667 dialysis sessions given the average cost of dialysis is more or less P3,000 as per data from the Department of Health.
The P125 million could have been 250,000 free insulin (average: P500) for diabetes patients; or the monthly salary of 3,787 nurses (average: P33,000 per month), or 31,250 months’ worth of formula milk for babies (average: P4,000 per month by World Health Organization data).
The P125 million is not a joke and could have changed the world of people if it had been used differently.
Perhaps, the budget was indeed used for good, but if it had been so, why did it have to be confidential? What intelligence and security expense did the OVP need to incur to justify such expenditure?
We can’t tell, it’s confidential. All we can do is hope that our legislators will do their part of safeguarding the nation’s interest and get to the bottom of this.