By Herbert Vego
ONE month ago, this corner predicted that Pres. Ferdinand “BBM” Marcos and Vice-President Sara Duterte would break their “uniteam” for a still unspecified reason.
But now there is no doubt that with the dissolution of her ₱650-million “confidential funds” in one fell swoop, there must be truth to it. However, there could be figure changes before Congress finalizes the general appropriations act (GAA) for 2024, though.
So far, she has miserably failed to explain why she needs confidential funds when her predecessor, Leni Robredo had not availed herself of a confidential centavo. The latter had done well in all six years without it though.
On the other hand, it smacked of greed that Sara had received an unappropriated ₱221. 424-million confidential funds for 2022, allegedly downloaded upon her request by Pres. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. from his contingent funds.
It must have been his way of trying to save their “unity” for as long as possible.
Confidential and intelligence funds are meant to be used by law enforcement agencies in undercover operations for the purchase of information and services, including travel and transportation.
Civilian officials may only be given confidential funds via legislated appropriations.
As mayor of Davao City from 2016 to 2022, Sara Duterte had amassed a total of ₱2.6 billion.
Wow! In that case, even with the removal of confidential funds for her present positions as vice-president and Department of Education (Dep-Ed) secretary, she would not lose her billionaire status.
But how could it be when it was the President’s son, Ilocos Norte Rep. Sandro Marcos, who had moved to terminate the House deliberation on the proposed P2.385 billion budget of the Office of the Vice President (OVP) without allowing anyone to question it?
Alas, the termination of Sara’s confidential funds is another matter which may rightly be attributed to mounting public outcry influenced by the minority Makabayan bloc in the House and the outspokenness of Senator Risa Hontiveros condemning the “illegal and unjustified” disbursement of P125 million confidential funds in December 2022.
Sara is not alone, though. Other offices such the Department Of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), Department of Agriculture (DA), and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) will also be deprived of confidential funds.
Even so, her dad Digong, political allies, paid vloggers and trolls have massed forces in a blitzkrieg, holding Speaker Martin Romualdez responsible for her fund strip. It is no secret that, like Sara, Martin nurses the ambition of succeeding cousin Bongbong in 2028. Huge campaign funds would count.
You see, this time, Smartmatic might no longer be around to “assist” the Comelec, whatever that means.
NOT JUST GUARDIANS OF THE ENVIRONMENT
IN its past three years as sole electricity distributor in Iloilo City, MORE Power has gone beyond the call of duty. It is no secret that the company has fielded its employees in periodic cleaning and planting activities to earn public recognition as “guardians of the environment.” Most recently, they cleared and replanted mangroves in the swamp area of Brgy. Hinactacan in Lapaz. Why not? Mangroves prevent soil erosion, minimize water pollution, reduce flooding and boost fish production.
MORE Power workers have also distinguished themselves as “guardians of health,” having partnered with the World Surgical Foundation Phils. (WSFP) Inc. — a dedicated non-stock, non-profit charitable foundation with a mission to deliver topnotch surgical healthcare to underprivileged individuals and communities in the Philippines.
As reported in this paper, WSFP is renowned for its medico-mercy surgical missions in pursuit of its “surgical outreach projects” carried out through its Direct Surgical Support Program Pillar.
They offer free professional medical and surgical services to indigent patients who lack access to affordable and quality healthcare.
WSFP’s partnership with MORE Power is aimed at maximizing high-quality medical and surgical activities in impoverished communities in Iloilo and Bacolod cities.
MORE Power’s “extension” of corporate social responsibility to Bacolod and suburbs is an offshoot of its affiliate Primelectric’s joint venture agreement with Central Negros Electric Cooperative (Ceneco) under a new name, the Negros Electric and Power Corp. (NEPC).
We keep our fingers crossed that a bill for issuance of 25-year franchise to NEPC (House Bill No. 9310) would hurdle congressional approval, being favorably pushed for by Negrense Representatives Joseph Stephen Paduano, Juliet Marie De Leon Ferrer, and Francisco Benitez.