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Pimentel warns of yearly confidential funds for DepEd, OVP, OSG if allowed under 2023 budget

By HANA BORDEY,GMA Integrated News

Allocating confidential and intelligence funds (CIF) to non-security-related government agencies might become a yearly practice if Congress approves their inclusion in the 2023 national budget, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III said Wednesday.
 
Pimentel issued the warning during the first day of the plenary debates on the 2023 General Appropriations Bill in the upper chamber.

 
The senator said there were at least P9.3 billion in confidential funds under the proposed 2023 national budget. Of this amount, P500 million is allocated to the Office of the Vice President, P150 million to the Department of Education, and P19.2 million to the Office of the Solicitor General.
 
Based on their research, Pimentel said the three agencies were not allocated with CIF under the 2022 national budget.
 
"Tatlo po ang agencies with new confidential funds na kung pupuwede wag nang umpisahan o wag na umpisahan muli kasi pag naumpisahan ang hirap hintuin e," Pimentel said.
 
"Paulit-ulit na to pag umpisahan natin yan, nagiging floor amount pa yan and then every year parang commitment na," he added.
 
Senator Sonny Angara, who defends the 2023 budget measure, said the Department of Budget and Management had explained that the three agencies had been given CIFs at one point in their existence.
 
However, Pimentel said the amounts previously given to these agencies were not as big as what they were requesting for 2023.
 
In response, Angara said the amounts under the proposed 2023 budget may seem enormous because the yearly national budget is growing.
 
"When we compare it [the current CIF allocations] to previous amounts, there were also smaller (national) budgets then. Relative to the total budget, that amount is perhaps on the same level," Angara said.
 
Pimentel was not convinced.

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"At any rate, if it used to be P5 million once upon a time, 10 years ago, as confidential funds of the OVP, and it's now P500 million, so times 100. I don't believe that the budget grew by 100 (percent)," he said.
 
At this point, Pimentel manifested that he will be proposing amendments to reduce the CIF of the said agencies and reallocate these amounts to items, which are needed by the people.
 
"Meron naman tayong mga security agencies. We will concede their need for confidential and intelligence funds," he said.
 
Angara expressed his willingness to consider the amendments that Pimentel will be proposing, saying this is within the purview of Congress.
 
"Certainly, the minority leader's recommendation will carry a lot of weight," he said.
 
Sought for comment, DepEd spokesperson Michael Poa said, “The DepEd has issued an official statement on the issue of confidential funds.”
 
“The Vice President and Secretary of Education has also previously stated that we will defer to the decision of the majority of Congress on the matter,” he added.
 
GMA News Online also reached out to OVP spokesperson Reynold Munsayac, but he had yet to respond as of posting time.
 
Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra opted to defer his response “until the Senate budget hearing tomorrow.”
 
At the early part of the interpellation, Angara explained that allocating CIF to civilian agencies would give the agency heads flexibility in addressing their needs.
 
"What is good [about] the confidential and intelligence funds is the flexibility they provide. The head of the agency has the flexibility to decide what contingency they intend to meet...If we decide to put it in a more specific line item, there's no more budget flexibility," he said. — with Giselle Ombay and Joahna Lei Casilao/VBL, GMA Integrated News