President Rodrigo Duterte’s confidential intelligence funds for year 2021, from the proposed P4.5-trillion national budget, face questioning by a member of the Senate, who wanted to know how the money would be spent.
Under the 2021 National Expenditure Program (NEP), which Malacañang itself prepared, the allocations for intelligence and confidential funds for the Office of the President remain at P2.25 billion each, or P4.5 billion in total.
“[It is] still a bit too much,” Sen. Panfilo Lacson told ANC in an interview, heard nationwide. “When you say P4.5 billion a year under one entity, which is the Office of the President—which is not a big office—how do they spend that?”
The amount makes up 55 percent of the total allocation for the President’s office for next year, which is at P8.19 billion, 2021 budget documents seen by the Standard showed.
Moreover, the P2.25 billion in intelligence funds under the Office of the President comprise 47 percent of the proposed P4.8 billion total intelligence funds for next year.
The OP’s confidential funds also make up 64 percent of the proposed P3.5 billion total confidential funds, the documents revealed.
On top of the OP intel budget, the President also has control over the intelligence funds of “the entire bureaucracy,” including that of the defense department, the police, Customs and Internal Revenue bureaus, and the National Security Agency, said Lacson.
Duterte also has a share from the funds of state casino regulator Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) and state lottery firm Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) that run up to “billions of pesos every year,” he added.
Asked about his fellow lawmakers’ possible reluctance to slash the funds of Duterte’s office, Lacson said, “Let’s see.”
“I always say what I mean, and I always mean what I say. In any budget deliberation, I really ask questions, I want things to be clarified, especially because this is our money,” he said.
Lacson also expressed concern over recent estimates that the national debt could balloon to P12 trillion due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The debt is at about P9.16 trillion, up from P7.8 trillion in January, Lacson said.
At the same time, Lacson said government officials should cut their travel budget to help tighten the national purse strings, considering the country was under lockdown protocols and restrictions owing to the coronavirus pandemic.
The increasing intelligence and confidential funds of the President’s office is not without precedence, with data on the website of the Department of Budget and Management showing that these allocations have generally increased since 2008, a GMA News report showed.
However, it was only during Duterte’s presidency that the intelligence and confidential funds under the Office of the President have reached the billion-peso mark.
In 2016, when former President Benigno Aquino III left Malacañang, the intelligence and confidential funds under his office were only pegged at P250 million each.
Aside from the Office of the President, other government agencies have their own share of intelligence and confidential funds, GMA reported.
In the proposed P4.5-trillion national budget for 2021, the Philippine National Police under the Department of the Interior and Local Government will receive the biggest allocation for intelligence funds after the Office of the President, at P806 million.
The National Intelligence Coordinating Agency follows with P20.2 million, then the Department of National Defense - Office of the Secretary at P10 million.
When it comes to confidential funds, the Philippine Drug and Enforcement Agency ranks second to the Office of the President for having the biggest allocation, with P500 million.
It is followed by the Department of Justice - Office of the Secretary, at P168 million, then the Department of the Interior and Local Government - Office of the Secretary, at P80.6 million.
The two agencies with the biggest intelligence and confidential funds after the Office of the President are the ones that take a primary role in the government’s efforts against illegal drugs.