Where was the ayuda? Davaoeños react to Sara’s P2.9B confidential funds

Oct. 06, 2023
Photo courtesy of PCOO

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Aniceto Macambay, 67, calls himself a “solid Duterte” supporter and believes that Sara Duterte’s confidential funds during her term as city mayor were justified and are most likely used to combat terrorism in the city.

“Sabihin na natin na may presence naman talaga ng mga anti-government dito and malakas sila (Let’s say there is actually presence of anti-government groups here and they’re strong),” he said.

But what bothers him is the amount the local government allocated from 2016 to 2022 for an untraceable transaction, which the Commission on Audit (COA) reported amounted to P2.6 billion.

“Pero that amount over the years masyadong malaki. Marami ang pwede paggamitan nyan para sa tao (But that amount over the years is huge. It could have been used to help the people),” he said.

Duterte is now in the center of the public eye for insisting on having confidential funds for her offices as vice president and educational secretary amounting to P650 million. 

The House of Representatives, after scrutiny by the minority and public pressure on how Duterte spent last year’s confidential funds last year, denied her of having those funds and reallocated them to other defense agencies.


But now, her secret funds during her mayoral term are under scrutiny.

An annual audit report from COA showed the local government’s confidential funds tripled under Sara’s mayoral term.

Sara received P144 million in 2016, which was a carryover from her father’s last term. The funds doubled in 2017 up to P293 million. It ballooned around 50% in 2018 up to P420 million, and then P450 million for the next from 2020 to 2022.

The audit report also indicated that Duterte’s confidential fund is much higher than the country’s wealthiest cities like Makati City (P1.25 billion) and Quezon City (P435 million) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines confidential budget amounted to P444 million yearly from 2020 to 2022.

For social services

The public also could not help but wonder how big Duterte’s confidential fund was during the pandemic yet affected communities only received “limited ayuda” or relief packs.

“Daghan gyud unta ang makadawat og tabang atong lockdown kung nagamit na nga kwarta para sa mga kabus (That money could have helped the poor during the lockdown),” said Mervin, a 42 year-old driver.

Mervin’s sentiment is rooted in how they struggle during the pandemic. Two members of his family got heavily sick with Covid-19 and their entire household was put into quarantine twice. But he said his family rarely received the city’s support such as food aid.

“Unsa ra man nang pila ka kilo ng bugas og de lata oi nya pila ka days mi naka lockdown walay trabaho. Hubas hubas gyud ang mga pobre, kanya kanyang paningkamot (What’s the use of sending a few kilos of rice and canned goods when we were in lockdown and we cannot find work. The money of the poor were all used up, we had to find ways to survive),” he added.

Even the city’s ayuda was flagged by COA. Back in 2021 COA’s annual report also reported that 600,000 of the 1,013,016 grocery packs bought between September 1 and October 10, 2020, could not be accounted for, or were not given to intended beneficiaries.

The amount was more than enough to provide for every family in Davao with a population of 1.8 million in 2020.

Former finance undersecretary Cielo Magno, in her statement, even noted that Sara’s confidential funds were higher than the allocation the city gave for social services such as education and health.


Duterte had explained in her statements that confidential funds were used for peace campaigns.

As city mayor, the Davao City government launched the Peace 911 campaign, a peace and development initiative to further safeguard the peace and security of far-flung villages like its pilot area in Paquibato district, a reported hotbed for communist guerrillas.

In the middle of the COVID pandemic, the city launched its “Culture of Security” campaign, where soldiers conducted anti-terror drills which raised eyebrows among residents. 

PJ Dizon, spokesperson of Kilusang Mayo Uno, said that during the pandemic, the local government’s prioritization “is very much biased” to the anti-communism campaign. By doing this, Dizon said Duterte’s leadership failed to address many pressing concerns during the pandemic.

He recalled that during those times, urban poor communities were calling for sustained subsidies and relief, but the local government was quick to react in a “militaristic manner” such as more mobilization of police forces to enforce community quarantine, which intimidated the public from voicing out concerns.

“Pipili ra gyud ang nakabenepesyo sa confidential nga pwede man unta ni gamiton para sa social services labi na ang health sector niadto nga panahon. Nagkalisod sa kahimtang nga kulang ang pasilidad ug mga health workers, kulang sa medisina ug wala’y saktong kompensasyon ang atong mga health workers (Only a few benefited from the confidential funds when this could have been used for social services especially for the health sector that time. That sector struggled with lack of facilities, health workers, medicine and lack of compensation),” Dizon said.

Duterte has not given a full answer to COA’s report or to questions on why she insists on having confidential funds. Her recent statement stressed that the use of it is entirely to ensure peace and security and she attacked those who questioned the fund as having ‘insidious motivations.”

“Anyone who attacks or undermines funds allocated for peace and order is naturally assumed to have insidious motivations. Such actions go against the protection and well-being of our citizenry. Those who seek to compromise the security and development of our nation jeopardize the very fabric of our society and hinder our progress,” said Duterte.

While Duterte’s offices, the Office of the Vice President (OVP) and the Department of Education (DepEd), may have no security mandate, Sara is a member of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTFLCAC), while DepEd is a member of the Anti-Terrorist Council. (Kath Cortez/davaotoday.com)

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