'Duterte spent confidential, intel funds better' – Diokno

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – President Rodrigo Duterte spent his confidential and intelligence funds "better than the past administrations," Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said on Wednesday, December 20.

In a briefing, Diokno said that the allocation for confidential and intelligence funds for the Office of the President remains at P2.5 billion. OP funds for 2018 stand at P6.03 billion. 

"Previous administrations had some P500 million allocation. PNoy (former President Benigno Aquino III) had P500 million as well. But at least President Duterte had more activities, don't you think?" Diokno said in a mix of English and Filipino. (READ: Lawmakers see failure of intelligence in Marawi attack)

"I think in terms of effectiveness, Duterte is more effective than the past administrations [in using the funds]," he added. (READ: Are Duterte's multi-million-peso intel funds achieving their purpose?)

Confidential funds are used for surveillance activities in civilian government agencies to support their mandate, while intelligence funds are for information-gathering activities of military and uniformed personnel that have direct impact on national security. (READ: EXPLAINER: Office of the President's confidential, intel funds)

In response to questions on where Duterte spent the funds, Diokno said that the question should be posed to the President.

The budget chief gave assurances that the OP submits reports to the Commission on Audit (COA). "Contrary to common belief, it is still being audited by the COA...But by the Chairman himself," he said.

Zero budget for opposition

At the House of Representatives, opposition lawmakers got zero budgets for 2018.  The leadership of the House of Representatives surreptitiously slashed or completely removed their allocations from the now-signed 2018 budget.

In separate statements on Wednesday, December 20, members of the "Magnificent 7," who brand themselves as the genuine opposition, called it an "assault to democracy" and a combination of "vengeance plus caprice."

Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman said the move was done in the bicameral conference with the Senate, "reportedly upon instructions of Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez."

“Why punish citizens and communities for the earnest and valiant efforts of their Representatives to maintain responsible dissent as the bedrock of democracy?” he asked in his statement.

Hard to audit

Since the first enacted budget under the Duterte administration, confidential and intelligence funds received a whopping 400% from its previous allocation of P500 million to P2.5 billion. These were supposed to be used for the administration's "war against drugs, criminality and corruption."

In an earlier statement, former COA Chaiperson Grace Pulido-Tan said that these funds are hard to audit as they would only rely on the reports and documents that the agency submits. (READ: Why intelligence funds require scrutiny)

On Tuesday, December 19, Duterte signed the P3.767-trillion national budget for 2018 into law. (READ: What's the share of gov't offices in the 2018 P3.8-T national budget?– with a report by Bea Cupin/Rappler.com

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.

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