Senate to press probe of DICT intel funds
Despite the truce President Rodrigo Duterte parleyed between Information and Communications Technology Secretary Gregorio Honasan II and his Undersecretary Eliseo Rio Jr., the Senate will continue its inquiry into the government’s use of intelligence and confidential funds.
“The intelligence funds are big. We really need to scrutinize these to see if they are used properly,”Senate President Vicente Sotto III said in an interview on dwIZ, adding that the chamber will constitute the committee on confidential and intelligence funds next week.
It will “look into all confidential and intelligence funds of the government, including the DICT (Department of Information and Communications Technology),” said Sotto, including the Office of the President (OP) as among the agencies with the biggest intelligence funds.
Earlier, militant lawmakers questioned the allocation of some P4.5 billion in intelligence and confidential funds in the OP’s 2020 budget.
This was bigger than the P1.7 billion in intelligence funds of the Department of National Defense and the P806 million of the Philippine National Police, according to Bayan Muna Rep. Ferdinand Gaite.
The brouhaha over intelligence funds reemerged last week after Rio resigned from DICT on Jan. 30 because the lack of transparency in the use of the DICT’s several millions of pesos in confidential funds for surveillance, which was not part of its mandate.
On Jan. 20, the Commission on Audit released a memorandum on its finding that the DICT withdrew P300 million in confidential funds from unspent sums originally allotted for projects.
Under government audit rules, an agency should first secure a notice of cash allocation (NCA) from the Department of Budget and Management before it releases cash advances from confidential funds.
But the memorandum said the DICT released P300 million from its unspent funds amounting to P446 million but they were withdrawn under an NCA that was issued earlier, in violation of audit regulations.
However, Honasan and Rio jointly issued on Friday stating that the DICT’s use of the funds was legitimate and it went to “lawful monitoring and surveillance of systems and network infrastructure only”and not of individuals.
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