December 7, 2023

Before it passed the 2024 national budget through House Bill 8980 or the 2024 General Appropriations Bill (GAB), a “small committee” of the House of Representatives has decided the fate of the request for a P650-million confidential intelligence fund for the Office of the Vice-President (OVP) and the Department of Education.
The chamber planned to transfer part of the confidential intelligence funds requested by the two offices under Vice President and Education Sec. Sara Duterte-Carpio to agencies with surveillance or intelligence-gathering activities related to securing the West Philippine Sea, “to boost the country’s monitoring and operational capabilities in protecting our territorial waters and securing the rights and access of Filipino fishermen to their traditional fishing grounds.”
Under the 2024 National Expenditure Program or NEP, about P4.86 billion would be earmarked for confidential intelligence expenses and P5.28B would be allotted for intelligence expenses. Pres. Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. alone has P4.5B, much like his predecessor Rodrigo Duterte.
Confidential and intelligence funds are lump sum allocations set aside in the national budget for expenses that involve surveillance and intelligence information-gathering activities.
As its name suggests, they are for confidential expenses related to surveillance activities in civilian government agencies that are intended to support their mandate or operations.
Similarly, intelligence funds are for intelligence expenses related to information gathering activities of uniformed and military personnel and intelligence practitioners that have direct impact on national security – purchase of information necessary for the formulation and implementation of programs, activities and projects relevant to national security and peace and order; payment of rewards to informers; uncovering and preventing illegal activities that pose a clear and present danger to agency personnel or property, or other facilities and resources under the agency protection, done in coordination with appropriate law enforcement agencies; intelligence and counterintelligence activities that have direct impact on national security; or any expense under the sun, unaudited at that.
The OVP, says my friend, Rep. Edzel Lagman of the 1st District of Albay, much more DepEd is not a surveillance agency and has no jurisdiction over matters of national security, hence the opposition, although it did not prevent the President to transfer P220M to OVP last year as supplement.
The former president came to his daughter’s defense amid controversies on her request for confidential funds. He insinuated that House Speaker Martin Romualdez is behind the attacks on her daughter, who this early is perceived as a good candidate for president in the 2028 elections against the Speaker, who is likewise poised to run for president in the next elections.
He demanded an audit of the funds disbursed by Romualdez and if an audit is not conducted or the Commission on Audit refuses to do so, he would ask the people to demand Congress to liquidate the funds that is given to congressmen.
Squarely, Congress has no confidential funds, said the senior vice chairperson of the House Committee on Appropriations. She explained a P1.6B funding was allocated as the chamber’s “extraordinary expenses”, including financing training activities, scholarships, travel, and other supplies that might be needed by lawmakers; emergency expenses, such as hospitalization needs and the death of a family member of their constituent as well as funding to help the public following natural disasters, as the line item falls under its P1.6-B budget for “maintenance and other operating expenses.”
So, P1.6B divided by 316 members of the Lower House would give them a minimum of P5M each, apart from the regular MOOE received by each amounting to a million a month more or less. The MOOE of course is not auditable and all it takes is for hizzoner to sign a receipt acknowledging it. I should know because that was the practice then and now.
Akin to confidential funds, it is instead classified as “extraordinary and miscellaneous expenses” to avoid “confusion”, but it is one and the same.
Different dog, same collar.
The greedy ones pocket the amount but the others share the loot with their constituents. That’s where the giveaways, Christmas gifts, feeding programs, solicitations, etc. come from, although your congressman or his spouse say they come from their own pocket, as one I know claims.
So, don’t be too excited when you receive gifts or dole-outs like this. They are from us, taxpayers’ money and at the very least, you can ask for transparency or better still, ask for more!
Sigh.