Drilon: Veto can’t stop oversight power of Congress
MANILA, Philippines — A simple presidential veto cannot stop Congress from using its oversight power to scrutinize even the government’s multibillion and top-secret intelligence funds, nearly half of which would go to the Office of the President (OP), Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon asserted on Friday.
“It is incumbent upon [the] Senate to continue exercising its oversight power over the utilization of P9.5-billion confidential and intelligence funds,” the opposition senator told the Inquirer.
The comment was prompted by President Rodrigo Duterte’s partial veto message on Dec. 28 after he signed the P4.5-trillion General Appropriations Act of 2021.
The President vetoed a general provision requiring Malacañang to submit quarterly reports on the use of intelligence funds to the Speaker of the House and the Senate President.
“Intelligence funds cover programs, projects and activities related to national security. In this regard, matters relating to national security are deemed confidential or classified information, which is one of the recognized exceptions to the right to information,” Duterte explained.
But Drilon maintained that the mandate of the Senate and the House of Representatives to scrutinize public funds was superior to the President’s veto power.
“Even with the vetoed special provision, the Congress can exercise its oversight power,” he said.
Under the new budget law, intelligence funds distributed among various government offices total more than P5 billion, while confidential funds amount to P4.5 billion.
State auditors noted that these secret funds were difficult to examine since they were generally used for surveillance and intelligence-gathering activities related to national security and peace and order.
The OP enjoys the lion’s share in intelligence and confidential funds, having P2.25 billion of each for a total of P4.5 billion—the same amount it was granted in 2020.
In 2019, the OP was allotted P1.25 billion each in intelligence and confidential funds, or a total of P2.5 billion.
In contrast, the OP under former President Benigno Aquino III was only given P250 million in both intelligence and confidential funds for a combined allocation of P500 million per year.
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