Koko hopes Congress will delete P650-M confidential, intel funds under Sara

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III expressed hopes that members of Congress would feel the public pressure to delete the P500-million confidential fund for the Office of the Vice President (OVP) and P150-million confidential fund of office of the secretary of the Department of Education (DepEd).

The head of these two offices is Vice President Sara Duterte, a political ally of President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr.

Pimentel said he and Senate Deputy Minority Leader Risa Hontiveros agreed to file a joint written position on the deletion of the P650-million confidential funds once the proposed 2023 P5.268-trillion national budget undergoes the period of amendments process during plenary sessions starting Monday, Nov. 21.

‘’Agree naman kami ni Senator Risa na di ibigay yang confidential fund, ang kailangan namin magagree ano sa tingin namin prayoridad na programa na di sufficient ang funding. doon na iliipat (Me and Risa are in agreement that the confidential funds should not be given Sara and instead realign it to urgent programs of government requiring additional funding),’’ he pointed out.

The confidential funds are supposed to be used for surveillance purposes.

Asked during a DWIZ radio interview Saturday, Nov.19 whether he and Hontiveros could get the majority support from their colleagues on the confidential fund issue, Pimentel replied: ‘’i’m sure meron syempre. (I am sure and hoping that) na marami para manaig ang proposal namin dun ako di sure kung makukuha natin majority of those present so pagsikapan natin (many would side with us and we would try to win over those present).

Pimentel and Hontiveros are of the position that confidential funds should be given to law enforcement agencies and not to civilian offices.

Queried on whether he is willing to reduce the confidential funds, Pimentel replied on the negative.

He, however, said compromises are likely to happen it being a reality in law making.

` The Senate fiscalizer pointed out that there is a total of P9.3 billion in confidential and intelligence funds (CIFs) in the proposed national budget, with the majority going to the President’s office.

He said the P9.3 billion could be realigned to other offices such as the social pension for senior citizens that doubled this year.

Pimentel said the social pension for senior citizens is short of P25 billion.

‘’So kahit ilipat natin lahat kulang pa naghahanap pa rin tayo kaya pagdating sa budget deficit kung ganyan ang mga batas na naipasa natin talagang ano tayo sa pondo (Even if we realign the P9.3 billion, we would still look for funds to address the budget deficit),’’ he added.

Earlier, Senator Juan Edgardo Angara, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, expressed hopes that the Senate would be able to pass its budget version next week.

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian thinks the passage of the Senate budget on second and third reading would be accomplished in one week as minimum and two weeks was maximum.

He said Angara set Friday, Nov.18 as the deadline for senators to submit their proposed amendments to budgets of different departments and agencies.

Pimentel is of the view that the Senate should not be rushed into approving its budget version just because the President certified the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) or national budget as urgent.

‘’Ito naman ay isang ritwal bakit sinertify as urgent di naman kailangan (There was no need to certify the GAB as urgent because the process is considered a ritual),’’ he pointed out.

‘’Bigyan natin konting delay ng apat na raw December 20 (Let us give it some delay, say December 20). Sana wag masyadong madaliin kasi dapat between approval ng second reading sana may final document na madaanan ng mga mata namin (Let us not be hurried because we want to see the final document with our own eyes),’’ he added.

Congress leaders had expressed hopes that the budget bill would signed and enacted into law just before Christmas.