Did Sara Duterte also ask for ghost employees?

First of all, how was the letter leaked?

The Office of the President provided it to the House, which was deliberating on the 2024 national budget. Malacañang gave the go-signal to forward it particularly to congressman Edcel Lagman. That is very abnormal. Lagman is currently the president of the opposition Liberal Party. Why would the Office of the President furnish an opposition fiscalizer with Duterte’s letter?

For all intents and purposes, a Marcos-Duterte war appears to have already been declared.

Sara Duterte did not ask for P125M in her letter to the Department of Budget and Management dated August 22, 2022. In fact, she asked for P403.46M for the remaining four months of 2022 that included a request for P250M confidential funds. Recall that when Sara assumed office on June 30, 2022, the Office of the Vice President was using Leni Robredo’s budget, approved in 2021 by Congress, which had no allocation for confidential funds.

Sara’s request for unprecedented confidential funds combined for 2024 (P650M) became a burning national topic that was met with widespread condemnation. In fact, the condemnation has turned to condescension. The P125M she was granted through that letter and which she had cashed out, said the Commission on Audit to the House, in just 11 whirlwind days in December 2022 has now reached the proportion of a national scandal.

What exactly did she request?

First, the OVP had a line item for “financial assistance.” It had on hand P150M remainder from the Robredo budget. Sara said that was not enough. She asked for P144.72M more that she said will go to her seven satellite offices. These offices, she said, had 100-150 clients per day per satellite office asking for “medical assistance.” The DBM released only P96.424M.

Second, the OVP had a line item for “special duty allowance” for security personnel. Robredo had 95 such personnel and left a remainder of P5.58M. Sara wanted more. For the first time in history, she got herself her own Vice Presidential Security and Protection Group of 450 personnel complement. Make that clear – this is the size of an infantry brigade. She wanted P8.74M more. She did not mind the superfluity and the utter absurdity of having 450 security personnel to guard her. The DBM rejected this request.

Let us jump to the fourth request, which was for P250M in confidential funds “for the safe implementation of the various projects and activities under the Good Governance program.” Take note that Robredo’s Good Governance program had no line item for confidential funds. DBM granted Sara P125M that was not allocated in the 2022 General Appropriations Act for the OVP. This was the amount that the Filipino people now find horrendous because she cashed out the whole amount from December 20 to 31, 2022 and was not subject to audit.

Spending P125M in only 11 days is equivalent to spending P11,363,636 per day.

If Mindanao has a Pacman in Manny Pacquiao, it now has a Pacwoman who gobbles up in just a jiffy millions of public money paid for by taxpayers. Pacwoman is in fact a kind allusion. Perhaps for good measure that we cannot blame netizens for, they now call Sara Duterte the money-eating eagle of Davao city.

If we are already shocked with this woman’s outrageous behavior, wait till you know about her third request. She wanted an “additional 192 co-terminus and contractual positions” to cost P107.46M.

She said she needed three more satellite offices; augment more personnel for additional buses for the Libreng Sakay Program, personnel for three food trucks to serve as mobile kitchens for nutritional activities and disaster preparedness, and a “peace-building initiative in Marawi.”

But what Libreng Sakay is she talking about? The five buses she is currently using were all lent to her when she was still running for the vice presidency in the 2022 elections. We also checked with political sources in Marawi City. They said they have not heard of any “peace-building initiative” of her office there.

This third request is particularly sensitive. Sara has had a record of “employing” 11,246 ghost employees in Davao City Hall for which she and her father were flagged by COA.

In 2012, Sara in fact went on a hiring spree. As she was on the last full year of her term, she signed up 11,000 temporary workers to six-month work contracts, including 110 consultants employed by her office without any proof to show that the personnel deserved their wages.

In 2017, COA discovered that the dubious contractuals were still on the Davao City payroll, proof that she refuses to reform her use of public money even if she is already red-flagged. Social media meme creators call Davao City the Halloween Capital of the World.

These ghost employees are no joke. The whistleblower Arturo Lascañas, one of the Duterte hitmen running the extrajudicial killing sprees in Davao City, said that he was paid for it as a ghost employee. In an interview with Vera Files, he said that he received P68,000 every month from the Davao City government as a member of the Davao Death Squad (DDS). The amount, he said, was pooled from 10 to 12 ghost employees whose salaries ranged from P5,000 to P7,000 a month.

Edgar Matobato, the other confessed DDS hitman, also confirmed his pay as a ghost employee.

In 2014 alone, Davao City Hall ghost employees totaled to a cost of P708M of public money. Besides extrajudicial killings, these monies can easily be laundered and transferred to bank accounts, which COA will never know. The classic Rodrigo Duterte response – threaten the Anti Money Laundering Council members that he will treat them as drug addicts. That means a death threat in the book of Duterte.

Thank God the DBM refused Sara’s third request.

But the warning is more than sufficient. Sara Duterte is a dangerous political animal. She is a servant not of the public but of her own larger-than-life ego (the reason why she will shame you back if you criticize her). We do not see in her any advocacies for good governance to fight corruption. She is simply profligate with money that does not belong to her and she has no qualms if criticized about it. It can be said, in fact – she does not know how to serve.

We cannot trust her. If Davao City did, not the nation. It is time for the Bongbong Marcos government to let her go.

The views in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of VERA Files.