More government civilian agencies are now asking for confidential funds under their proposed budget for 2024, Raffy Tima reported Tuesday on “24 Oras."
According to GMA Integrated News Research, 28 agencies have formally sought confidential funds in their 2024 budget, up from the 21 offices asking for such appropriation in 2016.
The Department of Budget and Management earlier said the total amount of confidential and intelligence funds across all agencies in the proposed 2024 budget is P10.14 billion, including P4.5 billion for the Office of the President (P2.25 billion confidential and P2.31 billion intelligence fund) and P500 million for the Office of the Vice President.
A Joint Circular No. 2015-01 of the Commission on Audit (COA) identified confidential funds as allocations that civilian government agencies use for surveillance activities supporting their mandate.
This is different from the intelligence fund (IF) which is being used by the uniformed, military personnel, and intelligence practitioners in sourcing information related to national security.
For Dr. Maria Fe Mendoza of the University of the Philippines National College of Public Administration and Governance (UP-NCPAG), the increase in civilian agencies asking for the funds may be due to changes in the country’s needs.
‘Doon sa ating nakaraan, ang confidential funds ay parang nilalaan lang sa OP. Kasi nga kailangan siyang may confidential funds for special pet projects kasi ang OP, parang ang assumption doon, supervision of all the agencies of government so may kaniya kaniya silang flagship programs,” Mendoza said.
(The confidential fund was being allocated to the OP alone before because the assumption was that it supervises all the agencies so it has its pet programs.)
“Ngayon tiningnan nila na ang national security hindi lang peace and order or yung problema natin sa defense or sa mga terrorists kung hindi kasama na rin yung food security,” she added.
(Now, we see that national security is not only peace and order or defense but also about food security.)
Mendoza said the COA still audits the funds but cannot publish the reports on the utilization of the budget.
“Pag tatanungin mo, bibigyan ka ng datos na, ay hindi namin madi-disclose kasi nga confidential,” she added.
(If you ask for data, they would say that they cannot disclose because they are confidential.)
The UP professor said it may be hard to contradict government offices when they ask for confidential and intelligence funds (CIF), especially if they will be used for their mandate. However, she said that CIF should instead be used or programs that directly help Filipinos.
“‘Yung intelligence funds ilagay talaga natin sa mga intelligence agencies para mas magamit nila yun, kesa sa spread out mo yun sa kung ano anong agencies na baka naman kokonti lang ang ambag,” Mendoza added.
(The intelligence funds should be focused on intelligence agencies instead of spreading out to offices.)
Recently, Vice President Sara Duterte said that the Office of the Vice President (OVP) requested confidential funds in August 2022 and received the allocation in December that year.
Senator Risa Hontiveros on Monday questioned the transfer of allocation in 2022 to confidential funds that didn't exist that year in the OVP.
The Makabayan bloc at the House of Representatives led by Deputy Minority Leader France Castro also raised questions about the OVP's confidential allocation.
“Senator Risa Hontiveros, while she amuses the nation with her flair for drama, could only wish the 2022 OVP confidential fund was accessed illegally,” the Vice President said.
“It’s a shame they still cannot produce any proof to support their dirty imagination. The indignity they have caused Congress and the Senate should be enough for us not to give them serious attention,” she said.
Hontiveros fired back to Duterte, saying: “Trabaho lang, walang drama. Hindi ko kailangang mag-‘wish’ na na-access ng opisina niyo nang ilegal ang confidential funds. Dalawang former Senate President na ang nagsabi — Sen. Drilon at Sen. Pimentel — na yung paglipat ng pondo mula OP to OVP ay ilegal at unconstitutional”.
(Pure work and no drama. I do not have to wish for their office to illegally access the funds. Two former senate presidents have said it was illegal and unconstitutional.)
The Vice President also hit Castro and the Makabayan bloc after they inquired about the fund transfer.
“You took out words doon sa batas and you interpret it this way. Sabi nila ‘wag niyo na basahin ang tatlong words yan. Basta makinig lang kayo sa interpretation namin’. ‘Yan ang ginagawa ni France Castro ngayon at ng buong Makabayan bloc kasi alam nila na ginagamit namin ang pera para hanapin ang connection nila sa NPA,” Duterte said.
(You took out words doon sa batas and you interpret it this way. They said 'do not read those three words. Just listen to our interpretation'. That's what Castro and the Makabayan do because they know that we are using the fund to trace their connection to the NPA.)—LDF, GMA Integrated News