Senate Deputy Minority Leader Risa Hontiveros on Monday floated the possibility of amending the Administrative Code to cut the practice of allocating confidential and intelligence funds (CIFs) to civilian agencies.
Hontiveros agreed with the observation that government agencies have become accustomed to receiving CIFs from the annual national budget.
The lawmaker said this practice is a "legacy of martial law and dictatorship."
"Kahit tingnan natin ang budget history, apparently, this practice of having confidential and intelligence funds kahit sa mga civilian agencies would date back to a particular Presidential Decree... So isa rin itong legasiya ng batas militar, ng diktatura at it is something now embedded, if I'm not mistaken in our Administrative Code," Hontiveros said in an ANC interview.
"So interesante at palagay kong importanteng pag-aralan natin, namin sa Senado or Kongreso, ang other budget reforms that we can introduce by way of legislation, 'yung amendment sa Administrative Code man 'yon or sa iba pa," she added.
For the minority lawmaker, this is not a healthy habit that the government has developed over the decades.
She said it is healthier for CIFs to be realigned to programs that will be specified in the General Appropriations Bill.
She mentioned the Senate's realignment of P120 million from the Department of Education (DepEd) confidential funds to the department's Health Learners Institution Program as a "step in [the] right direction to surface more of the government funds."
"[It's a step in the right direction] to surface more of them in the annual budget para subject sa regular [Commission on Audit] auditing, subject din sa regular citizen examination to make more honest brokers of us in government over time," she said.
"Dahil alam naming ia-audit ang budget na ibinigay sa amin ng taxpayers, ng mamamayan at ng Kongreso, na we will be more transparent and accountable at maike-kwenta namin 'yon sa COA nang maipagmamalaki namin at hindi ikahihiya," she said.
Although she raised the issue on allocating confidential funds to civilian agencies, Hontiveros said intelligence funds are a different matter.
"Ibang usapan 'yung intelligence funds ng mga ahensya natin and I say the professionals na talagang may kinalaman sa national defense or 'yung mga Armed Forces or 'yung National Police and even they, dito sa Pilipinas and I think lalo na sa ibang bansa, have long standing practices kung paano or at least paano maging accountable para sa pondong yon," she said.
As explained by Senate Minority Leader Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III, confidential funds are given to civilian agencies for surveillance activities which will help them pursue their mandate or function.
Meanwhile, intelligence funds are for law enforcement agencies or armed services involved in national security matters to gather intelligence.
Under the administration's proposed 2023 national budget, at least P9.3 billion CIFs are lodged in different agencies and offices.
President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. is proposing a P4.5-billion CIF for his office next year, while Vice President Sara Duterte is seeking a P500-million CIF under her office's P2.3-billion proposed allocation.
The Senate earlier realigned P172 million worth of CIF to various agencies when it approved the proposed 2023 national budget on third and final reading.
The bicameral conference committee meeting on the 2023 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) commenced last week.
Sonny Angara, who leads the Senate contingent in the bicameral panel as chairperson of the Senate finance committee, said that the realignment of the CIFs would remain a point of contention, even as he expressed confidence that everything would be resolved.—AOL, GMA Integrated News