MANILA, Philippines - Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. has P300 million at his disposal this year as the new chairman of the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC).
Under the P1.5-trillion 2011 national budget, the PAOCC is allocated P18,977,000 for “personal services,” the budget language for salaries, and P355,879,000 for maintenance and other operation expenses (MOOE).
Its MOOE outlay includes “P300 million for confidential and intelligence expenses to be released upon approval of the President.”
This means that Ochoa, as anti-crime czar, will have to obtain President Aquino’s approval for the use of the intelligence fund of the PAOCC.
During congressional hearings on the 2011 budget, Ochoa assured lawmakers that appropriations for the Office of the President (OP), including those for intelligence activities, would be used judiciously.
The President has named Ochoa as chairman of the anti-crime commission as part of their “division of labor.”
Aquino said his executive secretary would focus on solving crime, while he concentrates on other issues and problems.
Aside from the P300 million for PAOCC, the President has his own intelligence fund amounting to P100 million under the OP proper.
Ochoa, as PAOCC chairman, has two agencies under him. These are the Office of the Special Envoy on Transnational Crime, which has appropriations of P1,774,000 for salaries and P8,658,000 for MOOE, and the Philippine Center for Transnational Crime, which has P1,267,000 for salaries and P39,156,000 for MOOE.
In his original 2011 budget submission, the President proposed a P500-million confidential and intelligence budget for PAOCC and P150 million for OP proper.
Aquino later reduced these to P400 million and P100 million.
Of the P150-million reduction, Aquino allocated P50 million to the Presidential Communications Strategic Planning and Development Office headed by former broadcaster Ricky Carandang and P76 million to the Truth Commission, which former Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. chairs.
The PAOCC was a creation of former President Fidel Ramos, who named then Vice President Joseph Estrada as its chairman.
It had two operating task forces – one led by then police colonel and now Sen. Panfilo Lacson and another by Reynaldo Berroya, then also a police colonel.
Estrada himself would later arrest Berroya for alleged involvement in the kidnapping of Chinese national Jack Chou.
It was Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile and then senator John Osmeña who gave PAOCC a P500-million intelligence budget largely in recognition of the gains achieved by the Lacson task force in the fight against kidnapping groups.
During Estrada’s time, he appointed Lacson as head of the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force (PAOCTF) under PAOCC and later as Philippine National Police (PNP) chief.
When then Vice President Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo took over the presidency from Estrada in 2001, she disbanded PAOCTF but kept PAOCC and its annual intelligence fund of P500 million for the next nine years.
Thus, Arroyo had a total of P4.5 billion for intelligence expenses as PAOCC chair, aside from the P150-million annual appropriation for confidential expenses under OP proper.
Estrada’s congressman-son, Joseph Victor Ejercito of San Juan, has urged Arroyo to account for the huge amount of intelligence money that was at her disposal during her nine-year rule.