Pimentel questions OP’s intelligence funds

By HANA BORDEY,GMA Integrated News

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III on Thursday questioned the need to allocate billions of confidential and intelligence funds (CIF) to the Office of the President (OP) when there are existing agencies mandated to gather confidential information.

During the Senate's plenary debates on the proposed 2023 national budget, Pimentel asked the OP to justify the P4.5-billion CIF lodged in their office— P2.25 billion confidential funds and P2.25 billion intelligence funds.

Under the proposed budget for next year, at least P9.3 billion was allocated for CIF.

Pimentel said 65% of OP's maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) are CIF.

"Why should the Office of the President be given intelligence funds at 2.25 billion pesos when there [are] already existing intelligence agencies and units which can serve the intelligence needs of the Office of the President or the President himself?" he asked.

Senator Sonny Angara, Finance committee chairperson, said President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. deserves good intelligence information as the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and chairman of the National Security Council.

"The buck stops with him. If there is one person who needs access to good intelligence or information in the whole country, there should be no argument that it is our president. Because he's responsible, even things which are not his fault are blamed on him," he said.

He further pointed out that Marcos would need the funds to maintain order in the country.

"I think he deserves to know what's happening and given we are an archipelago of 7,000 islands, with so many dialects, so many regional agropations, so many kingpins... who try to exert their will in their areas of jurisdiction or power, I think the president, who'll need to maintain order, needs access to reliable information," he went on.

Still, Pimentel asked if it would be better to lodge the P2.5-billion intelligence funds in the OP to intelligence agencies.

"If the President or the Office of the President is a user, consumer of intelligence, the intelligence are generated by the practitioners and agencies devoted to intelligence gathering, so aren't the P2.25 billion lodged in the Office of the President better lodged in intel agencies?" he asked.

Angara, in response, said the President is not only a user of the information but a gatherer of information and raised the "sad truth" that there are security agencies that don't share their information.

"That's a fact that we should change going forward and I agree with you that there should be sharing of information but unfortunately and you mentioned trust as well but unfortunately the reality on the ground is some of our security agencies don't trust each other. We saw it in Mamasapano, we saw it in other episodes, your honor," he said.

However, Pimentel said that there might be replication of expenditures should the CIF are given to the OP and the security agencies.


"My fear is the P2.5 billion, gagawa ka na naman ng layer mo and it will look exactly like the administrative set up of the intelligence units or agencies of government. Parang sayang e," he said.

"If the attempt is to create another layer, although ibang tao na ang gagamitin, but again umulit ang expenditure. That's the point of the minority," Pimentel added.

The minority chief further argued that the public has to trust the constitutional scheme that the government has set up.

"Meron tayong intelligence practitioners e. If they are thirsty, hungry for more funds sa kanila bigay and then they should be able to generate reliable intelligence," he said.

Angara then mentioned that CIF is not new to the OP as the funds were given to the President from 2010 until the Duterte administration.

The current president did not even ask for additional funds, he added.

Angara likewise mentioned it is the first time that the CIF of the OP was questioned on the floor.

However, Pimentel said the Marcos administration, whom he noted as the first one that crafted a medium-term fiscal framework (MTFF), should be consistent with its pronouncements that it is vying for fiscal responsibility.

The minority chief pointed out that the MTFF has mentioned fiscal consolidation and growth-inducing expenditures among its policies.

"Just to be consistent with the administration's own would have been a welcome symbolic act for the OP to have cut their confidential and intelligence funds on their own initiative or volition," he said.

At the latter part of the discussion, Pimentel manifested that he will seek to reduce the CIF lodged under the OP in the proposed 2023 national budget even if he "expects to be defeated."

In terms of proper accountability in the use of the CIF, the minority leader said he will propose an amendment to require a periodic accomplishment report to Congress.

For the use of confidential funds, Angara said that departments or agencies provided by the said budget should submit a report to the President and the two houses of Congress.

Meanwhile, a quarterly accomplishment report should be given to the President in the use of intelligence funds.—AOL, GMA Integrated News