Watchdog: Bigger chunk of confidential, intelligence funds should be realigned

Davinci Maru, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 29 2022 12:15 PM

Watch more on iWantTFC

MANILA — A budget watchdog on Tuesday urged the public to be vigilant over the P9.2 billion in confidential and intelligence funds requested by several government agencies in the proposed 2023 budget.

According to Alce Quitalig, senior budget specialist of Social Watch Philippines, the Senate has already realigned at least P172 million in CIF to maintenance and other operating expenses of offices whose funds had been slashed.

"However, it remains meager compared to the P4.3 billion confidential funds proposed for 2023 and the P4.9 billion intelligence funds remain untouched," he told ANC's "Rundown".

Quitalig earlier said the CIF could instead be used for social development programs.

For 2023, the Office of the President asked for P4.5 billion worth of CIF while the Office of the Vice President requested P500 million worth of confidential funds.

The CIF can only be audited if the sitting Commission on Audit chairman orders its special division to audit it.

Under Joint Circular No. 2015-01, CIF are lump sum amounts provided in the General Appropriations Act.

Confidential expenses pertain to surveillance activities in civilian government agencies that are intended to support the mandate or operations of the agency.

Meanwhile, intelligence expenses are related to intelligence information gathering activities of uniformed and military personnel, and intelligence practitioners that have direct impact on national security.

The Senate and House of Representatives convened last week as bicameral conference committee to finalize the 2023 budget.

Top officials of both chambers will now negotiate over some P215 billion worth of realignments in the proposed P5.268 trillion budget.

"These are not necessarily red flag but these are items we can watch, we can guard, we can be vigilant over because these lump sum funds... sometimes they are shrouded in mystery or they lack transparency and accountability," Quitalig said.

"That's why it's important for us to articulate we need more transparency and accountability measures so that these issues could be disclosed to the public," he added.