Averting a possible flashpoint among lawmakers over the realignment of millions in confidential and intelligence funds (CIF) for civilian agencies with no national security mandate, two offices under Vice President Sara Duterte — the Department of Education and the OVP — informed senators on Thursday the agencies will no longer request such secret funds.
The OVP had earlier sought P500 million in CIF and the DepEd, P150 million.
During the Senate plenary debate, the main sponsor of the budget, Finance committee chairman Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara , explained that the OVP’s confidential funds were used to “ensure the safe entry for implementation of programs and, of course, of the vice president and her staff to various points of the archipelago.”
He read a statement by VP Sara Duterte explaining they would no longer pursue the CIF because it is “divisive,” and as vice president she has sworn “to keep the country peaceful and strong.”
The OVP and DepEd were among the agencies that critics wanted stripped of CIF, given the paltry sums allocated for agencies that have security as their intrinsic mandates, especially those involved in protecting the country’s interests in the West Philippine Sea.
The House of Representatives earlier stripped several civilian agencies of their CIF requests, and realigned these to the defense and security agencies, and the matter was expected to raise a problem if the Senate did not go along with the realignment.
When Duterte made known her willingness to give up her office’s CIF, the Senate plenary debates on the OVP’s proposed 2024 budget of ₱1.874 billion ended in half an hour.
For learning recovery
As for the P150-million CIF budget sought originally for DepEd, the DepEd requested that the funds be realigned to the National Learning Recovery program, which is meant to fast-track efforts to climb out of the plunging performance of learners as a result of the pandemic disruptions.
The DepEd’s stand was made known by Sen. Pia Cayetano, chief sponsor of the 2024 DepEd budget, during interpellation by Senate Minority Leader Koko Pimentel.
According to Cayetano, DepEd is seeking realignment of the CIF it previously requested to the National Learning Recovery Program, given that it does not see yet much improvement in the country’s dismal performance in global assessment tests.
Also at Thursday’s budget deliberations, Pimentel said that he has no problem with the grant of confidential funds (CF) to the Office of the President (OP) even if it is a civilian office.
Pimentel noted that under a joint circular on the entitlement, release, use, reporting, and audit of confidential and intelligence funds, confidential expenses are expenses related to surveillance activities in civilian government agencies that are intended to support the mandate or operations of the agency.
“I have no issue with a grant of confidential funds to the Office of the President, a civilian government agency with multi-dimensional, multi-faceted operations, responsibilities, and tasks. I have no problem with the concept of granting,” Pimentel assured.
Angara faced his colleagues at the marathon plenary session Thursday to defend the P10.6-billion budget of the OP for 2024.
Pimentel III asked Angara why the OP is requesting a P2.3-billion intelligence fund when it is not a uniformed or military agency or an intelligence practitioner.
Angara, quoting an earlier statement of Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin, said the President is both user and generator of confidential intelligence information and as the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces he needs to make very crucial decisions.
The OP budget was deemed submitted for plenary approval.#