Comelec execs defy chairman on intel funds
Is it really necessary?
The Commission on Elections has decided it could do without a confidential fund in its P4.6-billion budget for next year.
This despite Comelec Chair Andres Bautista’s earlier assertion the poll agency needed P30 million in confidential or intelligence funds to address incidents like the hacking of its website in March.
Commissioner Rowena Guanzon said six commissioners, with Bautista absent, in an en banc session on Sept. 6 passed a resolution declaring “that as a matter of policy, the en banc will not request for a budget for confidential or intelligence funds.”
“This is unnecessary; confidential funds are vulnerable to graft and corruption. It is liquidated only by the chairman and the commissioners will have nothing to do with it,” Guanzon said.
The P30 million would have gone for “surveillance activities and gathering of information relative to the activities of a certain group suspected of conducting overt and covert operations that may have a direct bearing on election cases filed with the Comelec.”
In particular, Bautista sought the funds after the Comelec website was hacked last March, resulting in a massive data leak of voters’ information on the internet.
“In the case of the recent hacking, the provision will be used to continuously strengthen cyber defenses,” a document from the Comelec’s finance service department said.
Bautista was not present at the en banc session, having to attend a hearing of the House of Representatives committee on suffrage.
In an interview, Bautista said that asking for confidential funds was “not extraordinary” and “agencies do it all the time.”
He had earlier asked for confidential funds but was turned down by the Department of Budget and Management.
He said previous Comelec chairs Christian Monsod, Benjamin Abalos, Jose Melo and Sixto Brillantes had asked for and received such funds.
In the past, the Comelec was allocated intelligence and counterintelligence funds ranging from P10 million to P30 million.
In 2007, 2011 and 2012, it received P10 million each year; in 2008, it got P15 million; in 2009, P20 million, and in 2010 and 2013, it got P30 million each year.
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