Ex-Robredo spox urges Congress to revisit 'propriety' of confidential funds
MANILA (UPDATED) — Lawyer Barry Gutierrez, the ex-spokesperson of former Vice President Leni Robredo, urged Congress on Tuesday to revisit the "propriety" of allowing the use of confidential funds by certain agencies.
"One of the things that Congress itself has to revisit is the propriety of actually disbursing confidential funds to just any agency," said Gutierrez, a former member of the House.
Lawmakers should also look into the existing mechanisms for the oversight of confidential funds to see "whether they are still sufficient given the way that they have apparently been misused," he told ANC's "Headstart".
Gutierrez issued the statement following the recent revelation by Rep. Stella Quimbo that Vice President Sara Duterte's office spent its P125 million confidential funds last year in just 11 days.
"Ang totoo po ay nagulat din po ako nung mabasa ko ang mga balita na tila nagastos po sa loob ng 19 days... Tinanong ko po ang COA (Commission on Audit) at tiningnan ko po ang mga iba't ibang mga reports pero hindi po ito nagastos sa loob ng 19 days kung hindi 11 days po," Quimbo said at the House plenary debates on the 2024 budget.
OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT
Castro also noted that former President Rodrigo Duterte and incumbent President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. spent an average of P12.4 million a day in surveillance funds in a year.
"'Pag in-add po natin 'yung confidential funds and intelligence funds under the Office of the President (OP), it is P4.56 billion," Castro said at the House plenary deliberations of the 2024 budget.
ACT-CIS Rep. Erwin Tulfo, the sponsor of the OP's budget, admitted that the huge funding started during the term of former President Duterte. However, he pointed out that the funds could not be assumed to be spent on a daily basis.
"Hindi naman po talaga pare-pareho ang panahon na P12 million a day. May pagkakataon na mas mababa, may pagkakataon na mas mataas ang kinakailangan po na pondo para sa particular day and time," he explained.
Tulfo then expressed apprehension when Castro asked if the President would be willing to reduce or let go of the government's surveillance funds.
"Ito po ay pinag-aaralan ng pamahalaan hinggil po dito sa confidential at intelligence fund pero mahirap po kasing sabihin na madaling tanggalin ito dahil ito po'y ginagamit sa impromasyon patungkol po sa national security at ika nga mga threats po internal and external ng ating bansa," he said.
—with reports from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News