Lagman pushes for tighter controls on secret funds
MANILA, Philippines — Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman is pushing for tighter controls on the appropriation of confidential and intelligence funds and stricter rules on using the “abused” contingent fund in the 2024 national budget.
Lagman, an opposition leader, made the proposal as the House began its plenary deliberations on House Bill No. 8980, or the 2024 General Appropriations Bill (GAB).
Lagman said Congress should “initiate the formulation of policies regarding agencies who are entitled or not entitled” to the secret funds, and the amount to be given to these agencies.
Lagman, president of the Liberal Party, had previously called for the scrapping of the P10.14 billion set aside for confidential and intelligence funds in the P5.768 trillion national budget for 2024.
“I will initiate some changes on the appropriation of the confidential and intelligence fund and entitlement of some agencies, and I hope this initiative will be considered by the leadership of the House committee on appropriations,” Lagman said.
Asked if she was willing to spearhead the crafting of new policies on confidential and intelligence funds, House appropriations panel senior vice chair Rep. Stella Luz Quimbo said it was a “very tall order” and that she would defer to the House leadership on the matter.
Lack of transparency
However, Quimbo recognized the importance of reviewing confidential and intelligence funds, which have been criticized for lack of transparency.
“There are many questions. So maybe it is time for Congress to review the policies regarding confidential and intelligence funds,” she said.
Quimbo also agreed with Lagman that there should be “better audit and increased transparency” for confidential and intelligence funds, although Congress will need to thresh out the details first.
“For example, do we create an oversight committee for confidential and intelligence funds? I mean that’s one possibility. There are other possibilities, so that is something that perhaps can be further discussed,” she said.
Lagman suggested the inclusion of provisions on the utilization and reporting of confidential and intelligence funds in the 2024 GAB “to make the utilization and reporting more transparent for purposes of holding agencies accountable.”
He pointed out that Joint Circular 2015-01, which governs the utilization of confidential and intelligence funds, is “only an administrative fiat.”