MANILA - Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Ferdinand Gaite on Wednesday slammed as "unconstitutional and unsound" President Rodrigo Duterte's refusal to disclose to Congress how intelligence funds in the 2021 national budget would be spent.
Interviewed on ANC, Gaite said the use of P9.5 billion in confidential and intelligence funds of the Office of the President (OP) should be transparent.
"The supposed veto is definitely unconstitutional and unsound. Sabi ng ating Saligang Batas (According to our constitution), public office is public trust. Every centavo that the government uses, even the President, must be accountable," Gaite said.
The lawmaker hit Duterte's office for having a large chunk of intelligence fund, which should instead go to the military and police.
"Funny that the Office of the President has the lion's share while agencies who have the supposed capability and competence of undertaking intelligence, mas maliit pa 'yong pondo ng AFP (the fund of Armed Forces of the Philippines is smaller), ng (of the) PNP (Philippine National Police) and other government agencies," he said.
Gaite called on his colleagues in Congress to be vigilant on how these funds would be spent.
"Tungkulin ng Congress na tumindig dahil siya 'yong may power of the purse. Dapat tiyakin niya na ginagamit ito sa wasto at tamang paraan," he said.
(It's Congress' duty because it has the power of the purse. It must ensure the funds are correctly and wisely spent.)
Although Gaite understands that information on intelligence fund spending is limited, he stressed it should not be hidden from the public.
"Hindi puwede na isa lang ang nagpapasya (It shouldn't be allowed that it's up to one's decision on) how these funds should be used and without accountability," he said.
The lawmaker said he planned to question before the court Duterte's decision of vetoing the provision, which requires the President to submit quarterly reports of intelligence fund spending to Congress.
In his veto message made public on Tuesday, Duterte said "all activities involving intelligence gathering that have a direct impact on national security and public safety shall be directly submitted to my office."
This, amid allegations that there are members of Congress connected with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA).
Duterte signed last Monday the country’s P4.506-trillion spending plan for 2021 which seeks to revive the economy ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic and improve the country’s response to the crisis.