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Senate creates panel to monitor use of P9.28 billion in confidential, intel funds

By HANA BORDEY,GMA Integrated News

The Senate on Monday created an oversight committee that will monitor the disbursement of the proposed P9.28 billion confidential and intelligence funds (CIFs) lodged under the 2023 national budget.

This came after the upper chamber adopted Senate Proposed Resolution No. 302 filed by Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri.

Zubiri will chair the oversight panel. He will be joined by Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva, Senate finance committee chairman Sonny Angara, Senator Ronald dela Rosa, and Senate Minority Leader Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III.

In his sponsorship speech, Zubiri reiterated that the creation of a select oversight committee on CIFs has been a tradition of the Senate since the 10th Congress.

He tagged the CIFs as "essential" to empower government agencies to conduct necessary programs, operations, and activities for the safety and security of Filipinos, especially now that we are "facing strange new challenges."

"So in these times, we need to be more trusting of our government agencies. As agencies at the forefront of these problems, like child sexual abuse and pornography, illegal drugs, and terrorism, they would know what appropriate programs, activities, and projects to undertake," he said.

However, Zubiri said it is the responsibility of the Senate to be vigilant over how these funds are used as they are not subject to the usual or regular Commission on Audit procedures unlike the other budgetary items.

"The Senate will exercise the full extent of our oversight function: We will monitor the use of these funds; we will go over the reports relevant to each agencies’ use of funds; and we will conduct hearings if necessary," he said.

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Pimentel, who questioned the CIFs lodged in different departments during the Senate budget deliberations, said the creation of an oversight panel is a good practice but discouraging the granting of these lump sum funds is a better measure.

"I welcome this development in the Senate but as stated by our Senate president, we have done this before. So let's continue the good practice but then there is even a better practice which is discourage the allocation of lump sums especially in the form of CIFs in the national budget," he said.

"After we have tried our best to trim down the grant of CIF and also to discourage the grant of CIF, in my mind, this becomes a second level of defense in the name of the people and for the people, in the name of transparency," he added.

The Senate activated the oversight panel before the senators introduce the committee and individual amendments to the 2023 General Appropriations Bill (GAB). 

Some of these CIFs are allocated in the Office of the President (P4.5 billion), Office of the Vice President (P500 million), Department of Education (P150 million), Department of the Interior and Local Government (P100.6 million), among others.—NB/AOL, GMA Integrated News