Zubiri eyes new rules on intel funds
MANILA, Philippines — Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri vowed on Saturday to change the rules on the government’s confidential and intelligence funds (CIF) and remove such allocations for a number of agencies that do not deserve to get such funding.
A day after a Senate select oversight committee issued rules on the handling of such funds, Zubiri said in a radio interview that the panel would also revisit a joint government circular that some government agencies were using as a justification to ask for CIF allotments.
“We plan to revisit the circular. We want to make sure that the guidelines are simplified, and we want to limit its scope so that it can’t cover anything under the sun,” he said.
Zubiri was referring to Joint Memorandum Circular No. 2015-01, promulgated by the Commission on Audit, Department of Budget and Management, Department of the Interior and Local Government, Governance Commission for Government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs), and the Department of National Defense (DND).
The circular set guidelines on the “entitlement, release, use, reporting and audit” of CIF as allowed by the General Appropriations Act (GAA), the corporate operating budgets of GOCCs, and appropriations ordinances of local governments.
According to the circular, only agencies “expressly” allotted CIF in the GAA are entitled to such funds.
Vice President Sara Duterte repeatedly cited the circular at Senate budget hearings last week as the supposed legal basis for the entitlement of the Office of the Vice President (OVP) to P500 million and the Department of Education (DepEd) to P150 million.
Revisit the circular
She admitted, too, that the OVP received P125 million in confidential funds in 2022 through a fund transfer from the contingency funds lodged with the Office of the President although the DepEd never had CIF allotments before.
According to Zubiri, the Senate will revisit the circular because it provides a “too broad” menu of possible justifications for otherwise illegal expenditures.
Under the circular, CIF will only be used for purchases of information for programs, activities, and projects relevant to national security and peace and order; rental of transport vehicles for confidential activities; or rentals and incidental expenses related to the maintenance of safe houses.
It may also be used for the purchase or rental of supplies, materials, and equipment for confidential operations; payment of rewards to informers; and to uncover/prevent illegal activities that pose a clear and present danger to agency personnel/property.
In his interview, Zubiri made no mention of Duterte’s 2022 “confidential funds,” but assured taxpayers the oversight panel would scrutinize the use-of-funds reports.
Among those that will most certainly be increased, he said, is the CIF for the Philippine Coast Guard, which only has P10 million for CIF in the 2024 NEP.
Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III said the oversight panel would have to scrutinize the OVP’s spending of the CIF, including the P125 million transferred from the Office of the President in 2022, because the apparent fund transfer was patently irregular.