10 government agencies may lose secret funds
Ten government agencies are at risk of losing their confidential and intelligence funds for 2024, including the P650-million confidential funds under Vice President Sara Duterte’s control—an “unprecedented move” and a “partial victory” for critics of these secret funds.
House appropriations committee senior vice chairperson Rep. Stella Luz Quimbo said a four-member panel will meet on Monday to tackle amendments to House Bill No. 8980, or the 2024 General Appropriations Bill, which was passed on final reading on Wednesday.
“The hottest issue is, of course, the confidential and intelligence funds. The confidential funds of the Office of the Vice President (OVP) and the Department of Education (DepEd) will be scrapped, but we are still studying how other government agencies’ similar funds will be slashed,” Quimbo said in an interview with reporters on Friday.
Quimbo is a member of the four-person panel that was created by the House to finalize amendments in line items and provisions of the P 5.768 trillion national budget for next year.
Aside from appropriations committee chair, Rep. Elizaldy Co, the other members of the panel are Majority Leader Rep. Manuel Jose Dalipe and Minority Leader Rep. Marcelino Libanan.
Funds to be realigned
Quimbo, however, declined to identify the 10 government agencies for now, as she stressed that they are still “rationalizing” the confidential and intelligence funds of these agencies.
She made the remarks after Co identified the OVP and the DepEd as the initial fund sources of the confidential and intelligence funds to be realigned to National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, National Security Council, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).
The P5.768-trillion national budget proposed for 2024 included P10.14 billion in confidential and intelligence funds tucked in the funding of more than 17 departments and attached agencies.
This sum is composed of P4.86 billion in confidential funds and P5.277 billion in intelligence funds. Almost half of the P10.14 billion, or P4.56 billion, is under the Office of the President.
The OVP has a P500-million request for confidential funds while the DepEd, which Duterte heads as education secretary, has a P150-million request for confidential funds.
Duterte came under fire for spending P125 million in confidential funds over 11 days in 2022 even if the OVP did not have an appropriation for confidential expenses.
Although Makabayan solons have persistently insisted on the abolition of these funds, House Deputy Minority Leader Rep. France Castro called the decision to slash the confidential and intelligence funds as an “unprecedented move.”
“If the confidential funds will be truly reduced, then this will be an unprecedented move. This is the first time that I will be seeing this reallocation and reduction of the confidential funds,” she said in a press briefing on Friday.
Castro said she, House Assistant Minority Leader Rep. Arlene Brosas and Kabataan Rep. Raoul Danniel Manuel were part of the discussion of the leaders of political blocs in the House. Although the people secured a “partial victory,” Castro warned that it remains to be seen if the small committee will indeed slash the P10.14 billion confidential and intelligence funds of several government agencies.
Castro said “the realignment should not go to confidential funds too. In the case of the PCG or the BFAR, they should be able to use it for equipment to patrol the West Philippine Sea. The realignment should result in a more auditable, transparent utilization of the funds,” she said.