MANILA, Philippines – A Malacañang official elaborated on where President Rodrigo Duterte's confidential and intelligence funds go during the Office of the President budget hearing at the Senate on Thursday, August 30.
Deputy Executive Secretary for Internal Audit Alberto Bernardo listed 5 agencies under the Office of the President that are considered "part of the intelligence community" and thus are likely to get some of the P2.5-billion confidential and intelligence funds that have been requested by Malacañang since 2017.
He read the list out after being asked by Senator Loren Legarda, chairperson of the Senate appropriations committee, how the funds are used.
Below are the 5 offices and a description of their purpose, based on Bernardo's remarks:
Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission - Conducts intelligence, counter-intelligence operations to identify government officials and employees, crime syndicates, and cohorts involved in criminal activities. Subject to existing laws, provides monetary rewards to informants for information leading to the successful prosecution of corrupt government officials and criminals.
Philippine Center on Transnational Crime - Use technology to create a shared database among government agencies for information on criminal methodologies, arrests, and convictions related to transnational organized crimes like illegal drugs trafficking, money laundering, terrorism, arms smuggling, human trafficking, piracy, and other crimes with impact on the country's security and stability.
Presidential Commission on Visiting Forces Agreement - Submits an annual report to the President assessing the status of visiting forces agreements and if they continue to serve the national interest. Coordinates between agencies for this purpose.
National Coast Watch System - Conducts review of maritime security operations, provides periodic reports to the President and the National Security Council, gives recommendations to update policies, facilitates intelligence-sharing among maritime stakeholders.
Presidential Situation Room - Provides current intelligence and crisis support to the President, the Executive Secretary, the National Security Adviser, and the Secretary of the Presidential Management Staff.
No specific allocations yet
Legarda also asked Bernardo and Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea for the specific budget allocations for each office. But Bernardo said these are decided in a "workshop among the intelligence community" conducted at the start of the fiscal year and thus could not yet be identified. (READ: Are Duterte's multi-million-peso intel funds achieving their purpose?)
It is during this workshop when a "work and financial plan" is finalized, which is then used as basis for making specific budget allocations. He, however, gave assurances that the allocation is "function-based."
Legarda explained that she wanted more information on Duterte's confidential and intelligence funds because she would likely again be asked about them at the plenary. She noted that the P2.5-billion – P1.25 billion each for confidential and intelligence funds – is a significant amount.
Since 2017, Duterte's Malacañang has asked for, and received, this amount. It's a whopping 400% increase from the P500 million – P250 million each for confidential and intelligence funds – allocated in 2016, during the term of Benigno Aquino III.
These funds entail special audit processes given their sensitive nature. Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno previously said they are audited by the Commission on Audit chairman.
Every year, lawmakers have flagged Duterte's large confidential and intelligence funds, saying they are unprecedented. Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, a critic of the President's, has asked why the need to allot such a large budget in the OP when it could have gone to line agencies directly accountable for intelligence and security.
On Wednesday, Medialdea defended the proposed confidential and intelligence budget, claiming it "helps with running things." The budget department said these funds are used mainly for Duterte's campaign against illegal drugs, terrorism, and crime. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at email@example.com.