What went before: No stopping CIFs in the 2023 budget | Inquirer News

What went before: No stopping CIFs in the 2023 budget

/ 05:36 AM September 08, 2023

What went before: No stopping CIFs in the 2023 budget

FILE PHOTO: Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman. INQUIRER FILES

On Dec. 16, 2022, President Marcos signed the General Appropriations Act of 2023, his administration’s first full budget, keeping the confidential and intelligence funds (CIFs) requested by the Department of Education (DepEd), the Office of the Vice President (OVP) and the Office of the President (OP) intact.

During budget deliberations months earlier, the minority bloc in the House of Representatives called out the P9.2-billion CIF in the 2023 National Expenditures Program, nearly half of which was the P4.5 billion accounted for by the OP—P2.25 billion in confidential funds and P2.25 billion in intelligence funds.


Call for ‘purge’

Vice President Sara Duterte, who also serves as education secretary, had asked Congress to allot P500 million in confidential funds for the OVP and another P150 million for DepEd.


The opposition lawmakers particularly noted that DepEd and the OVP did not have CIFs in past administrations.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman wanted a “purge” of the “unnecessary and excessive” CIFs and singled out Duterte’s requests. He said “no stretch of the imagination or flexibility of logic” could justify the inclusion of these funds in two government agencies that are not concerned with surveillance and national security.

According to a joint circular by the Commission on Audit, the departments of budget, local governments and defense, and the Governance Commission for GOCCs (government-owned and controlled corporations), confidential expenses are those associated with surveillance that are intended to support an agency’s operations.

Intelligence expenses are those for information-gathering activities that have a direct impact on national security, normally conducted by intelligence agencies, the military and police.

The use of such funds is “generally confidential and classified” but requires “strong internal controls” and “strict accounting and auditing rules to prevent mishandling or improper application of the funds,” the joint circular said.

In November 2022, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III and Sen. Risa Hontiveros both questioned the request for CIFs of the OVP and DepEd as both agencies did not have a clear mandate to spend on intelligence operations.


Angara’s defense

But Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara, chair of the Senate finance committee, defended Duterte’s requests.

Angara argued that by appointing her to one of the biggest government agencies, Mr. Marcos only showed Duterte was “an important part of his administration.”

“For me, it’s not good to take away the budget from someone who was elected by the people and was given the allotment by the President under his first-ever budget,” Angara said in a radio interview.

He added that the President, as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and chair of the National Security Council, was entitled to CIFs.

“If there is one person who needs access to good intelligence or information in the whole country, then I think there should be no argument that it is our President because he is responsible—I mean, even things which are not his fault are blamed on him,” Angara said.

The proposed P150-million CIF of DepEd was later slashed to just P30 million by the Senate while the OP’s P4.5-billion CIFs and the OVP’s P500-million CIFs were untouched.

But the original amount for DepEd’s CIF was restored to P150 million during the bicameral conference committee discussions and included in the approved P5.268-trillion 2023 national budget.

One more time

For the 2024 budget, Duterte again asked for a P500-million CIF for the OVP and P150-million CIF for DepEd. Marcos again sought the largest chunk of secret funds—P2.25 billion for confidential spending and P2.31 billion for intelligence expenses.

On Aug. 28, House Deputy Minority Leader and ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro said that the OVP spent these P125 million in confidential funds in just 19 days—from Dec. 13 to Dec. 31, 2022—or an average of almost P7 million per day. She noted that the Vice President’s budget for 2022 left by her predecessor, Leni Robredo, had no CIF allocation for that year.

A week later, during the Senate hearing for the 2024 budget of the OVP, Duterte confirmed that she requested P125 million in confidential funds in August 2022 from Malacañang and this was granted by the OP in December.

According to the Office of the Executive Secretary (OES), Duterte requested the OP to release P221.424 million for maintenance, operating and other expenses, such as financial assistance or subsidy, amounting to P96.424 million and confidential funds for newly created satellite offices amounting to P125 million.

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The funds, said the OES, were charged against the OP’s 2022 contingent fund.

TAGS: 2023 budget, Bongbong Marcos Jr., Congress, Philippines, Sara Duterte

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