By Hannah Torregoza
Opposition Senator Leila de Lima on Tuesday questioned Congress’ lack of scrutiny on the proposed P4.5-billion ‘confidential, intelligence, and extraordinary’ funds under the Office of the President’s (OP) proposed budget for 2020.
De Lima, who is currently detained at the Philippine National Police (PNP) Custodial Center in Camp Crame, reminded Senate and House lawmakers that approving a proposed budget of any government office—including that of the OP—without serious scrutiny is tantamount to neglect of duty by government officials.
“Approving with dispatch the proposed budget of any government office, including the Office of the President, is commendable,” De Lima said in a latest statement.
“But doing so sans an iota of scrutiny is dereliction of duty on the part of our officials, and dangerous in more ways than one – especially under this administration that is notorious in inserting and tucking funds within the financial rigmarole,” she pointed out.
The Senate finance sub-committee presided by Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go approved the proposed 2020 P8.2-billion budget for the OP in record time of less than 10 minutes last September 11.
The former Special Assistant to the President concluded the hearing without posing any questions even on the Confidential, Intelligence and Extraordinary (CIE) funds that notably doubled its proposed amount for 2020.
Prior to this, the House’s Appropriations Committee also approved the P4.5-billion budget of the OP’s CIE funds out of “traditional courtesy” without exercising its oversight function.
De Lima noted that the OP’s proposed P8.2-billion budget for 2020 is 21 percent higher than the P6.77-billion it got this year. The P4.5-billion budget for confidential, intelligence and extraordinary funds is almost double the budget it asked for in the previous three years.
A vocal critic of the Duterte administration, De Lima questioned why the president would need such huge budget for CIE funds when there are already various government agencies which are directly mandated for the intelligence gathering.
“Why does Mr. Duterte need a gigantic amount of (CIE) funds and why the House at the Committee level several days ago, and now the Senate Sub-Committee, allowed the approval of this budget without a thorough vetting or due diligence? We are talking about 4.5 billion pesos of public funds that will be spent outside the microscope of audit,” she said.
“Kahit pa mga santo ang naghain ng budget, kailangan naman suriin natin at busisiin, dahil higit sa usapin ng magandang intensyon, pagtupad ito sa tungkulin na maingat na gastusin ang pera ng bayan sa kapakinabangan ng mamamayan, (Even if those who proposed the budget are saints, we ought to examine it very carefully because more than having good intentions, it is part of the mandate to check whether public funds are being used properly for the benefit of the people),” she pointed out.
“Every promise of reform that Duterte wants to fulfill since day one in office, there is another fabric of society that he rips apart. This has been the formula of governance by this President,” she said.