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Solon questions ‘unprecedented’ increase in Duterte's confidential, intelligence funds

Bayan Muna party-list Representative Ferdinand Gaite on Monday questioned what he called the "unprecedented" increase in the confidential and intelligence funds under the office of President Rodrigo Duterte for 2020.

During the plenary deliberation of the proposed P8.2-billion budget of the Office of the President for next year, Gaite quizzed its sponsor, House Committee on Appropriations chair Isidro Ungab, as to the requested increases on the confidential and intelligence funds of the office.

Under the proposed P4.1-trillion National Expenditure Plan for 2020, the Office of the President wants P2.25 billion each for confidential and intelligence funds, up P1 billion from the P1.25 billion each for those expenses in 2018 and 2019.

Gaite asked Ungab if such increases were "unprecedented."

Ungab, in response, explained that as the commander in chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Duterte needs the intelligence and confidential information to "effectively, efficiently and precisely plan all intensified efforts to suppress the threats against national security, terrorism, campaign against illegal drugs, insurgency and transnational crimes."

"It's only proper and fitting that we provide this request, the amount as requested by the Office of the President in order for the [office] to be able to deliver effectively and efficiently the needs of the country," he added.

Ungab also said he does not believe the increases were "unprecedented," saying that these confidential and intelligence requirements are based on estimates of local and foreign situations.

"There has been a lot of developments and we believe that we have to give the much-needed resources to the Office of the President in order to meet this present exigencies," he said.

Gaite, however, asked whether the Office of the President is an intelligence gathering agency.

He said intelligence gathering is the function of other specialized agencies, such as the AFP and the Philippine National Police, and the President's Office should no longer focus on that.

But Ungab once again countered that the President is the commander in chief of the armed forces.

"There are complicated situations now in the field that would require gargantuan tasks in order to prevent this," he said.

"As the government plans with its foresight and proper planning, military, police planning, the insidious forces are planning another approach. So the President should be updated, abreast, and I believe we should grant this," he added.

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo earlier explained that the bigger confidence and intelligence funds was for the office to have "resources to determine the threats against the state.”

“Kailangan iyon, and you need money for that,” Panelo told reporters. “Mahirap mag-secure sa isang bansa, kailangan mo talaga ng pera. You need people, you machines, technology. Maraming paggagastusan."

Panelo also expressed confidence that the funds will not go to corruption.

“Malabo iyon ‘pag Office of the President because number one si Presidente nga na ayaw ng corruption eh. Napaka-istrikto ni Presidente,” he said.

“The President is not exempted from accountability, kung if you’re talking about accountabilities. Lahat na mayroong hawak ng pera are required by law to account, so I don’t think there is a problem with that," he added. —LDF, GMA News