By Bernadette D. Nicolas & Samuel P. Medenilla
AMID revenue shortfalls in the pandemic, Malacañang is pushing to maintain over P4.5-billion funds for its “confidential, intelligence and extraordinary expenses” next year, which it said could be tapped for the government’s measures for the novel coronavirus disease (Covid-19).
Of the sum, P2.25 billion will be for confidential expenses; P13.9 million will be for extraordinary and miscellaneous expenses; P2.25 billion will be for intelligence expenses.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque defended the proposal under the 2021 National Expenditure Program (NEP), which he said can be used by the President for practical purposes, as he did this year.
“This is a fund, which can be used by the President if there is a need for it, and many of his use for the confidential fund [this year] was used for Covid, soldiers who died, and those who died because of Covid,” Roque said.
Roque noted that an advantage of confidential fund is that, “whether or not it’s included in the line item, it could be spent by the President but it is still subject to audit.”
To note, under the General Appropriation Act (GAA) of 2020, the Office of the President was given P2.25 billion for confidential expenses; P16.98 million for extraordinary and miscellaneous expenses; P2.25 billion for intelligence expenses.
Replying to the BusinessMirror, Budget Undersecretary Laura Pascua said the necessary legislation must be passed before such realignment—the President using his confidential and intelligence funds for Covid-19—could be allowed.
“This could only be done through Bayanihan Law, which directs the discontinuation of certain PAPs [programs, activities and projects] and allocates them in the law specific programs for Covid effort,” Pascua told the BusinessMirror.
Republic Act 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Law provided several emergency powers to Duterte, which include realigning the budget for the government’s Covid-related measures.
On Tuesday, the Department of Budget and Management finally submitted its P4.506-trillion 2021 NEP to Congress for its consideration.