Rep. Maria Carmen Zamora said Sunday the P2.5-billion confidential and intelligence funds of President Rodrigo Duterte in next year’s national budget will not be used against the opposition.
Zamora, vice chairman of the House committee on appropriations and the main plenary sponsor of the proposed P3.757-trillion General Appropriations Bill, said the P1.25 billion for confidential and intelligence expenses were intended for President Duterte’s war on drugs, criminality and corruption.
“As we are all aware, the President’s priority is the fight against illegal drugs and corruption,” Zamora said about the Office of the President’s budget, which is 12.32 percent higher than its 2018 budget.
“He is very serious with these concerns, and this justifies the [confidential and intelligence] funds.”
The retention of the P2.5-billion confidential and intelligence funds under the Office of the Presidents’ P6.773-billion budget in 2019 coincided with the second quarter 2018 Social Weather Stations survey showing almost eight out of 10 Filipinos were satisfied with the President’s war on drugs or 78 percent, while 13 percent were dissatisfied and nine percent were undecided.
“It is evident that the President is successful in dealing with this for the past years. But more interventions are needed. There is still a need to strengthen and intensify his campaign,” Zamora said.
Under the 2018 and 2017 General Appropriations Acts, Congress allocated P2.5 billion each year, which is 400 percent higher than the confidential and intelligence funds in 2016, or P250 million each.
In a manifestation during the plenary debate, Rep. Tom Villarin raised concern that the allocated funds for the oversight management on national security would be used against the opposition.
“There’s this thinking, feeling that going to the elections of 2019, there would definitely be attempts to silence the opposition or to put a gag on all those who are opposing the present administration,” he said.
He said the fund was subject to the scrutiny of Congress, and requested the Office of the President to provide a breakdown on how the program budget would be used.
Zamora said the funds for the oversight management on national security was different from the confidential and intelligence funds.