A House leader has assured the people that the P2.5-billion confidential and intelligence funds of President Rodrigo Duterte under the proposed 2019 national budget would not be used against the opposition in the name of national security.
Compostela Valley Rep. Maria Carmen Zamora, a vice chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations and the main plenary sponsor of the proposed 2019 P3.757-trillion General Appropriations Bill (GAB), stressed the P1.25-billion each for confidential and intelligence expenses are intended for President Duterte’s war on drugs, criminality, and corruption.
“As we are all aware, the President’s priority is the fight against illegal drugs and corruption... He is very serious with these concerns, and this justifies the [confidential and intelligence] funds,” Zamora said defending the Office of the President’s (OP) budget, which is 12.32% higher than its 2018 budget.
The retention of the P2.5-billion confidential and intelligence funds under the OP’s P6.773-billion in 2019 coincided with Second Quarter 2018 Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey showing almost 8 out of 10 Filipinos are satisfied with President Duterte’s war on drugs or 78% while 13% were dissatisfied and nine percent were undecided.
“It is evident that the President is successful in dealing with this for the past years. But more interventions are needed. There is still a need to strengthen and intensify his campaign,” Zamora further said.
Under the 2018 and 2017 General Appropriations Acts (GAA), Congress allocated P2.5 billion in each year which is 400% higher than the confidential and intelligence funds in 2016 – P250 million each
The confidential and intelligence funds do not require receipts, making them hard to audit to determine the integrity of its spending.
In his manifestation during plenary debate, Akbayan party-list Rep. Tom Villarin feared that the allocated funds for the oversight management on national security would be used against the opposition.
“There’s this thinking, feeling that going to the elections of 2019, there would definitely be attempts to silence the opposition or to put a gag on all those who are opposing the present administration,” said Villarin.
Villarin also mentioned that the fund is subject to the scrutiny of Congress.
He then requested the OP to provide a breakdown on how the program budget will be utilized.
Zamora clarified that the funds for the oversight management on national security is dissimilar to the confidential and intelligence funds.
It was learned that the P4 billion budget for the Presidential Oversight Program shall be utilized for the following: (1) issuance of presidential directives, special powers and authorities, and clearances; (2) policy development and formulation of strategic presidential interventions; (3) oversight management on national security concerns; (4) public assistance and information services; (5) oversight of general government internal control systems; (6) oversight and general government performance monitoring; and (7) locally-funded projects.
Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) party-list Rep. France Castro noted that the P1.25 billion each provided for the confidential and the intelligence funds seemed to be about five times compared to that of previous administrations.