Hontiveros: Ban civilian agencies’ contingent fund for secret use
MANILA, Philippines — The contingent fund (CF) in the 2024 national budget should not be used to augment the confidential funds of government agencies with civilian functions.
Opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros introduced this idea when the Senate began its plenary discussions on the proposed P5.768-trillion spending plan for 2024 on Wednesday.
In particular, Hontiveros seeks to amend the current special provision of the CF in the budget bill.
“With respect to the augmentation of the CIF (confidential and intelligence funds) from the Contingent Fund as was done last year for the Office of the Vice President, we wish to propose an amendment to the current special provision of the Contingent Fund,” she said.
The senator earlier branded as “unauthorized” and “illegal” last year’s transfer of P221 million from the Office of the President (OP) to the Office of the Vice President.
Vice President Sara Duterte previously admitted making the fund request, which included the controversial P125 million confidential fund for her office.
“Again as a matter of fiscal prudence, we’d like to include the augmentation of the CIF as a prohibition under the Contingent Fund, along with the prohibition to tap the said fund for the purchase say of motor vehicles,” Hontiveros continued.
The senator explained that under the special provision of the CF, P13 billion is allotted to cover next year’s funding requirements for new or urgent activities or projects of national government agencies, government-owned and -controlled corporations, and local government units that need to be implemented or paid during the year.
“In no case this fund shall be used for the purchase of motor vehicles, including any improvements thereon,” the senator pointed out, still citing the special provision.
Senator Sonny Angara, however, cautioned that the proposed amendment “may hamper” the security agencies.
“I think there’s a merit in that,” said Angara, who sponsored the budget bill as chairman of the Senate committee on finance.
“But I’m just being told that if it’s over broad, Your Honor, it may hamper some of the security agencies so perhaps there may be an exemption to the exemption or an exemption to your proposal…” he stressed.
The panel chairman also cited past occasions where the need to “supplement security agencies” was justified.
Hontiveros, however, clarified that her proposal will only cover civilian agencies.
“Salamat sa paalala but definitely ang iniisip kong amendment at the proper time will not pertain to security agencies that have clear national defense and public safety mandates and expertise kung hindi sa mga civilian agencies na wala namang direktang mga ganun,” she said.