MANILA - Leftist lawmakers warned Friday the Philippines is turning into a police state, as President Rodrigo Duterte's office sought to double its intelligence funds for 2020.
Based on the National Expenditure Program for next year, the Office of the President wants P2.25 billion allotted each for its confidential and intelligence expenses, totaling P4.5 billion.
In 2018 and 2019, the amount the Office of the President requested was at P2.5 billion in each of those 2 years, or P1.25 billion split between confidential and intelligence expenses.
Duterte's office is seeking an P8.2-billion total budget for 2020, higher than the P6.7 billion allocated for this year.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, who serves as House deputy minority leader, urged his colleagues to "thoroughly scrutinize the proposed national budget, especially on this surveillance budget and its further threats to human rights."
"Take this proposed intelligence budget with the proposed amendments to the Human Security Act (HSA) along with the PNP's and AFP's push for the revival of the Anti-Subversion law and the militarization of campuses, then these would effectively make the whole Philippines as a police state," he said in a statement.
"De facto Martial law sa buong bansa ang mangyayari sa atin nito."
(The country will be placed under a de facto martial law.)
Zarate was referring to the military's proposal to amend several provisions of the HSA in a bid to counter rising threats of terrorism.
It urged lawmakers to remove the P500,000 fine per day of detention upon a law enforcer who mistakenly accused and prosecuted a person for terrorism and to lengthen the period of detention for alleged terrorists to 30 days from the current 3 days.
Bayan Muna said other state agencies that would get huge amounts of intelligence funds are the military with P1.70 billion, the police with P806.02 million, the Philippine Coast Guard with P10 million, and other executive offices with some P590 million.
Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said he does not know the reason for the budget increase.
"I do not know exactly the reason, but if you ask me, I will be using my common sense, by saying that you really need money if you want to secure your country and the Office of the President is one of the better offices that can secure the security of the land," he said.
--With a report from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News