THE chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations on Monday defended the Office of the President’s budget for confidential and intelligence funds, which account for more than half of the entire budget of the OP for next year.
During plenary deliberations on the P8.2-billion budget of the OP for 2020, Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab, the panel chairman, said the P4.5 billion has been allotted for the President’s confidential and intelligence funds.
As Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the President “needs resources to defend the country’s national security,” Ungab stressed.
He said Duterte will use his 2020 confidential and intelligence funds for the government’s fight against drugs, criminality, insurgency and terrorism.
“The President, as Commander in Chief of the AFP, needs intelligence and confidential information in the performance of his duty in order to effectively, efficiently, and precisely plan all intensified efforts to suppress threats against national security, terrorism, campaign against illegal drugs, insurgency and transnational crimes,” said Ungab.
“I think it is only proper and fitting that we provide the amount as requested by the Office of the President in order for the OP to be able to deliver effectively and efficiently the needs of the country,” he added.
Of the OP’s P8.2 billion for 2020, P6.7 billion is for maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE), P1.1 billion for personnel services and P427 million for capital outlay. The OP’s 2020 budget is higher than the P6.7-billion allocation it received this year.
“We believe that we have to give the much-needed resources to the Office of the President in order to meet these present exigencies,” said Ungab.
“As the government plans ahead with its foresight and with its proper military police planning, the insidious forces are also planning another kind of approach. So the President must be updated, abreast, and I believe we should grant this request,” he added.
During the plenary deliberations, Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Ferdinand Gaite questioned the 400-percent increase in the OP’s intelligence and confidential funds.
Ungab said confidential and intelligence funds are based on the coordinated and integrated intelligence estimates of local and foreign situations, which are needed to carry out the President’s policies against criminality.
Earlier, the Makabayan bloc also questioned the biggest presidential pork in history, noting “some reports say, amounts to P1.7 trillion, or more than a quarter of the P4.1-trillion budget.”
The bloc said such “pork” is all under the Special Purpose Funds (SPF) which did not specify the purpose. The President and his alter egos have direct control of the funds under the proposed General Appropriations Act.
“It is incumbent upon Congress to scrutinize the national budget especially the SPF because it is classified as a humongous lump sum, and, therefore, pork barrel,” the bloc said.
“President Duterte just said that he would veto any pork in the national budget. He should set an example and veto this as well,” it added.