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Zubiri: Senate to also reallocate 'unnecessary funds' to PCG, AFP

Following the move of party leaders in the House of Representatives, Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said the upper chamber also intends to reallocate unnecessary funds in certain agencies to the intelligence agencies, Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

“We have agreed in the Senate to do the same. We also will [be] reallocating funds that we feel are not necessary for the use of certain agencies and allocate them to our [i]ntelligence Community as well as our Coast guard and AFP,” Zubiri said in a Viber message sent to reporters on Wednesday.

Asked if the confidential funds lodged under the Office of the Vice President (OVP) and the Department of Education (DepEd) will be included, Zubiri said “We shall review all agencies.”

In an interview with Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva, the lawmaker said the Special Committee on Confidential and Intelligence Fund has already convened and they tackled the immediate scrutiny of the use of the funds to know where these were spent and to come up with a general rule not to provide such funds to agencies that do not need them.

“Umasa kayo at asahan n’yo na may mga tatanggalin na mga intelligence fund doon sa mga ilang ahensya ng pamahalaan… Ayokong magsalita ng numero, but probably yung mga civilian authorities,” he said.

Asked if this includes the Department of Education and the Office of the Vice President, Villanueva said “Lahat po ng confidential funds at intelligence funds na gusto nating makita at ma-review.”

“We are not against confidential funds per se, intelligence funds per se, but we just want accountability and ensure that this is needed,” he said.

Earlier in the day, heads of different political parties in the House of Representatives released a joint statement, announcing that they have agreed to reallocate the confidential and intelligence funds (CIF) to agencies in charge of intelligence and surveillance activities amid the recent events in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

The lawmakers said beneficiaries of this reallocation include the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA), the National Security Council (NSC), Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).

Among those who signed the joint statement were Representatives Michael John Duavit (1st District, Rizal), Johnny Pimentel (2nd District, Surigao del Sur), Eleandro Mendoza (Romblon), Jose Aquino (1st District, Agusan del Norte), Angelica Co (BHW party-list) and LRay Villafuerte (2nd District, Camarines Sur).

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, who consistently objected to the lodging of confidential funds to civilian agencies, congratulated his fellow lawmakers in the House of Representatives saying “The idea is worth pursuing.”

Deputy Minority Leader Risa Hontiveros also expressed full support for the upper chamber’s plan as well as the initiative of the House members to realign the confidential and intelligence funds to agencies in charge of defending the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

“Deserve na deserve nila ang dagdag na suportang ito… Hindi talaga kasi tama na ‘yung mga civilian agency na walang direktang kinalaman sa national security, pero may P500 million na confidential fund, habang ang PCG na nagbabantay sa buong WPS, pagkakasyahin ang P10 million na confidential funds sa 2024,” she said.

(They really deserve this additional support. It is not really right for a civilian agency that has no mandate on national security to have P500 million confidential funds while the PCG, which secures the whole WPS, to get P10 million confidential funds in 2024.)

“Ang napipintong paglilipat ng napakalaking pondong ito sa PCG is undeniably on the right track. Now, we are walking the talk. I am very glad that we are starting to set our national priorities straight,” she added.

(The plan to realign this huge fund to PCG is undeniably on the right track. Now, we are walking the talk. I am very glad that we are starting to set our national priorities straight.)

Total confidential and intelligence funds proposed for 2024 total P10.142 billion, according to documents from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM). It is higher by P120 million than the P10.02 billion set aside for the CIF in 2023.

The past National Expenditure Program (NEP) defines intelligence funds as those “related to intelligence information gathering activities of uniformed and military personnel and intelligence practitioners” having direct impact to national security.

Meanwhile, confidential funds are those “related to surveillance activities in civilian government agencies that are intended to support the mandate or operations of the agency.” —KG/VAL GMA Integrated News