House leaders on Wednesday have agreed to reallocate confidential and intelligence funds (CIF) to agencies tasked to protect the country’s sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).
The collective decision of the House leadership to reallocate the 2024 CIF funds was made through a joint statement issued by heads of political parties, as the chamber is expected to approve the 2024 General Appropriations Bill by Wednesday.
“Recognizing the rising security threats in the West Philippine Sea and the need to secure top officials, these agencies are better positioned to counteract security threats, protect our territorial waters, and secure the rights and access of Filipino fishermen to traditional fishing grounds,” the parties added.
“The decision also underscores the need to ensure that resource allocation aligns with national priorities and the urgent needs of the citizenry, reflecting our commitment to a budget that is balanced, equitable, and serves the true needs and aspirations of the Filipino people,” it added.
The joint statement was signed by Rizal 1st District Rep. Michael John R. Duavit, president, Nationalist People’s Coalition; Agusan del Norte 1st District Rep. Jose S. Aquino II, secretary general, Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats; Romblon Rep Eleandro Jesus Madrona of the Nacionalista Party; Surigao del Sur 2nd District Rep. Johnny T. Pimentel, vice president for Mindanao, PDP-Laban; Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte, president, National Unity Party; and Barangay Health & Wellness (BHW) Party-List Rep. Angelica Natasha Co, representing the Partylist Coalition Foundation Inc. (PCFI).
With this, a substantial amount of the reallocated funds will go to the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA), the National Security Council (NSC), the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).
The NICA is the leading intelligence collector of the national government, which directs, coordinates, and integrates all intelligence activities, both foreign and domestic, concerning national security. The NSC, on the other hand, is the principal advisory body on the proper coordination and integration of plans and policies affecting national security.
Aside from NICA and the NSC, the House leadership also decided to augment the 2024 spending plan of the PCG and BFAR to boost their capacity and capability in surveillance and security over the WPS.
“We have decided to reallocate, as part of the budget process, confidential and intelligence funds to other agencies chiefly responsible for intelligence and surveillance, such as the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, the National Security Council, the Philippine Coast Guard, and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources,” said the joint statement.
“In conclusion, this united stance is a testament to our commitment to uphold the principles of democracy, prioritize the needs of the Filipino people, and ensure the prudent and rational use of the nation’s resources,” said the statement.
Earlier, House Deputy Minority Leader and ACT Teachers Party-List Rep. France Castro said the Marcos administration has increased CIF from P10.022 billion this year to P10.142 billion, or almost P120 million more next year.
The lawmaker said the largest CIF is under Marcos, with P4.56 billion.
She added that the Office of the Vice President (OVP) is again proposing P500 million in confidential funds, and the Department of Education (DepEd) is asking for another P150 million in confidential funds, all under the control and discretion of the vice president.
Under the current setup, only the President, the Senate President, and the Speaker of the House have access to information pertaining to CIFs.
In the plenary deliberations of the OVP for 2024, Castro asked the OVP if it was willing to forgo the confidential fund request for 2024.
Davao de Oro Rep. Maria Carmen Zamora, the sponsor of the OVP budget, said the OVP is firm in its stand that it can “only propose on how it will do its job.”
Also asked if the OVP is willing to forgo the confidential fund request for 2024 and reallocate it to agencies protecting the country’s safety and security, Zamora repeated that the “OVP is consistent with its stand that it submits to the wisdom of Congress.”
According to Zamora, the OVP proposed CIF would be used for the safe implementation of all programs and activities of the OVP.
Zamora said OVP’s actions are in alignment with the law and have always been in conformity and synergy with the Constitution and co-equal branches of government.
“The OVP holds immense respect for Congress, as we hold the power of the purse. This is a critical responsibility that enables careful allocation of resources to serve the nation’s needs and aspirations,” she said.
Earlier, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) assured the public that the allocation for CIF in the 2024 proposed budget will be covered by circulars and will be properly accounted for.
Joint Circular 2015-01, or the guideline on the entitlement, release, use, reporting, and audit of confidential and intelligence funds, was issued on January 8, 2015, by the Commission on Audit, the Department of Budget and Management, the Department of the Interior and Local Government, the Governance Commission for Government-Owned and Controlled Corporations, and the Department of National Defense.
The circular refers to confidential expenses as those expenses pertaining to or related to surveillance activities in civilian government agencies that are intended to support the mandate or operations of the agency.
It defines the intelligence fund as the lump sum amount provided as such in the general appropriations for the national government agencies.
Image credits: AP/Bullit Marquez