MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte has refused to tell Congress how intelligence funds in the 2021 national budget would be spent, according to a copy of his veto message that ABS-CBN News obtained on Tuesday.
Duterte said intelligence funds cover programs and projects "related to national security" and matters related to this "are deemed confidential or classified information."
"All activities involving intelligence gathering that have a direct impact on national security and public safety shall be directly submitted to my Office," he told Senate President Vicente Sotto III and House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco.
"Consequently, I have to directly veto the proviso... which effectively requires the submission of quarterly reports on the use of intelligence funds to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate of the Philippines," Duterte added.
The security cluster "insists that there are members of Congress who are sympathizers or allegedly connected to the CPP/NPA (Communist Party of the Philippines/ New People's Army)," said Sotto.
"PRRD (Duterte) probably thinks it's best not to telegraph the Executive’s intel actions," he said.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin earlier questioned why programmed allocations for intelligence and confidential funds, as well as the government's anti-insurgency program, were higher than funding for COVID-19 vaccines under the 2021 national budget.
While Congress authorized the executive branch to disburse P72.5 billion for the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines next year, only P2.5 billion has guaranteed funding under the 2021 budget, while the remaining P70 billion needs to be sourced from loans or excess non-tax revenue collections.
"It is like we issue a check without adequate funding. Sana po hindi mag-bounce (Let's hope it does not bounce)," Drilon said in a statement.
"There is no definite revenue source for the purchase of COVID-19 vaccine but there are P16.4 billion for anti-insurgency and P9.5 billion for confidential and intelligence funds," he said.
Duterte on Monday signed the 4.506-trillion spending plan for 2021, which he said would seek to revive the economy ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic and improve the country’s response to the crisis.