Senators vow to scrutinize confidential fund requests of all gov’t agencies under 2024 national budget

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Senators are keen on scrutinizing all requests for confidential and intelligence funds (CIF)  under the proposed P5.768-trillion national budget for 2024. 
 
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, said he will check how and where the proposed CIFs of all departments and agencies would be utilized. 
 
“The intelligence funds and confidential funds is really the prerogative of the Executive. If they have projects to use for it, if they have programs to use the intelligence funds, it's their prerogative. What's important are the safeguards. So under the rules, COA (Commission on Audit) needs to audit that,” Gatchalian said in an interview on CNN’s The Source.
 
“Number two, we have to have oversight (panel) to look at those audit reports. Typically, these reports are analyzed by both houses, by Congress and by the Senate and to see whether those expenditures are being used wisely,” he pointed out.
 
“We have to look at what it is intended for. If it's intended for example, to fight the insurgency? If it's intended to fight drugs? For example, when I was the mayor, normally when you have pusher-buyer activities, you have money to use for example, buying drugs for buybust operations. These are actually taken from the confidential funds or intelligence funds if you plan to gather intelligence. So there are legitimate uses for those funds,” 
 
“So what's important is COA audits them, and then we, the Congress gets the full report so we can analyze those reports whether they are used wisely or not,” he stressed. 
 
Under the proposed 2024 national budget, P10.14-billion would be allocated for CIF for all national agencies including the P4.56-billion for the Office of the President (OP). 
 
Sen. Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito said senators would likely hold an executive session when they discuss the proposed CIFs.

Ejercito questioned why requesting for confidential funds suddenly became a trend among government agencies. 

"Why is everyone suddenly asking for intelligence funds?" he pointed out.
 
For one, Ejercito said he wants to know whether the Department of Education (DepEd) still needs a confidential budget when the government itself has claimed insurgency in the country has already weakened. 
 
The DepEd, which is under Vice President Sara Duterte’s watch, is asking for P150-million in CIF. The Office of the Vice President itself has requested for P500-million in confidential funds. 
 
“DepEd’s purpose then was to counter this recruitment by leftist groups in schools and on our youth. We will also if it’s still necessary to have that big intelligence fund and for what purpose,” Ejercito said in an online interview. 
 
Ejercito also said the Senate is bound to thoroughly scrutinize the proposed confidential funds of the Department of Agriculture (DA) amounting to P50-million. 
 
“We will ask them how would you use it? To counter smuggling? Profiteering? The problem is they already know who are the hoarders and smuggers, so what is the intelligence fund for?” he further pointed out. 
 
The problem, Ejercito pointed out, is that those in the lower positions are turning a blind eye to the numerous irregularities in the DA. 
 
“So for me, the DA should be ashamed because the President himself is the concurrent DA secretary,” he argued. 
 
However, Ejercito said some agencies’ request for CIF may be justified, citing the case of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT). 
 
DICT can use the confidential funds precisely to crack down on cybercriminals and put a stop to online fraud, including text scams. 
 
Ejercito pointed out his own son ironically fell victim to a text scam and lost his savings when the government has already mandated the registration of all subscriber identity module (SIM) cards under the newly-enacted SIM Registration Act.