OVP, DepEd confidential funds to be affected by realignment
MANILA, Philippines — The Senate and four House of Representatives leaders have agreed to reallocate confidential and intelligence funds (CIF) from civilian government agencies to agencies responsible for intelligence and surveillance.
The reallocation will help the Philippines improve its defenses against cybercrime and China’s aggressions in the West Philippine Sea.
During Senate deliberations yesterday on the proposed 2024 budget of the Department of National Defense (DND), Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri vowed to augment the country’s defense spending budget.
“We are fully committed to support your budget, and the reason being they are fully committed to support and defend our country, no matter what it takes, even with their lives,” Zubiri said.
“We will not allow ourselves to be bullied by our neighbor in the north… We need a defense spending budget. You’ll see a drastic difference in your budget come December,” he added, referring to China.
The House leadership has also decided to reallocate CIF away from civilian agencies.
In a joint statement yesterday, four leaders of dominant political parties said they will reallocate funds to agencies responsible for intelligence and surveillance, such as the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA), National Security Council (NSC), Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.
The lawmakers expressed “serious concern” over the China Coast Guard’s recent installation of a 300-meter ball-buoy barrier southeast of Bajo de Masinloc (Scarborough Shoal).
“This action not only impedes the rights and livelihoods of our Filipino fishermen but also disrupts the prevailing atmosphere of regional peace and collaboration,” the leaders said in a statement.
“We extend our collective support to the PCG’s swift and diplomatic actions in removing the barriers at Scarborough Shoal,” they added.
Based on the proposed P5.678-trillion national budget for 2024, some P1.432 billion was earmarked for NICA while P629.27 million was allocated for the NSC.
Signatories to the joint statement were Rizal Rep. Michael Duavit of Nationalist People’s Coalition, Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel of Partido ng Demokratikong Pilipino-Laban, Romblon Rep. Eleandro Madrona of National Unity Party and Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte of Nacionalista Party.
Zubiri, in a message sent to reporters before the Senate hearing on the DND’s proposed 2024 budget, said the Senate will follow suit.
“We have agreed in the Senate to do the same. We also will reallocate funds that we feel are not necessary for the use of certain agencies and allocate them to our Intelligence community as well as our PCG and the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” he said.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros supports Congress’ decision to reallocate CIF, noting that “it is not right” for civilian agencies that have nothing to do with national security to have a P500-million confidential fund while the PCG only has a P10-million confidential fund in 2024.
OVP CIF affected
House committee on appropriations chairman Rep. Zaldy Co yesterday said the confidential funds sought by Vice President Sara Duterte will be realigned.
The executive department has earmarked P10.14 billion in CIF in the 2024 National Expenditure Program, the bulk of which was for the Office of the President at P4.56 billion.
The most controversial is the P650 million in combined confidential funds allotted for the Office of the Vice President and the Department of Education, as requested by Duterte, who also heads DepEd.
State auditors only depend on the transparent and accurate submissions of government agencies in auditing CIFs, making the funds difficult to audit.
At a press briefing yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva said the CIF should be put to better use by the country’s agencies in charge of fighting cybercrime, such as the Department of Information and Communications Technology, which has a measly P300 million in confidential funds.
The Office of the Ombudsman may be the third government agency willing to reallocate its confidential funds to protect the integrity of the anti-graft body, Ombudsman Samuel Martires told the Senate yesterday.
The Department of Migrant Workers and Department of Foreign Affairs have expressed their intention to give up their confidential funds.
“If it could only taint the reputation of the Office of the Ombudsman and its officers, I am willing that this be removed,” Martires told Sen. Sonny Angara and Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III.
Pimentel asked Martires about his office’s request for confidential funds, as the matter remains controversial.
“I’d rather not have confidential funds during my term of office. I think we can survive without the confidential fund,” Martires said. – Cecille Suerte Felipe, Sheila Crisostomo
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