Budget Watch

Duterte defends P150-M confidential funds, says education, national security ‘intertwined’

Jezreel Ines

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Duterte defends P150-M confidential funds, says education, national security ‘intertwined’

Inoue Jaena/Rappler

'Education is intertwined with national security. Napakahalaga na we mold children who are patriotic, children who will love our country, and who will defend our country,' says Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte

MANILA, Philippines – Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte on Monday, August 7, again defended the P150-million confidential funds included in the proposed budget of the Department of Education (DepEd) for 2024.

“Because education is intertwined with national security. Napakahalaga na (It’s very important that) we mold children who are patriotic, children who will love our country, and who will defend our country,” Duterte told reporters in an ambush interview.

When asked about the breakdown of the confidential funds, Duterte mentioned the existence of a joint memorandum that specifies both the designated utilization and the outlined procedure for the liquidation of confidential funds.

“By its nature, it’s confidential funds, so we cannot discuss kung paano siya ginagamit sa operations (so we cannot discuss how they are used in operations),” she said.

However, Duterte emphasized that it is ultimately up to Congress to decide whether to approve or modify the allocated budget for the confidential funds. 

“With regard to the confidential funds, we leave it to the decision of the Congress – the House of Representatives and Senate. Basta kami, nagpropose kami, iiwan namin sa kanila ang decision (We have made our proposal, and we will leave the decision up to them),” the education secretary said. 

Despite opposition from some lawmakers, Congress had approved the P150-million confidential and intelligence funds in DepEd’s 2023 budget.

What are confidential and intelligence funds?

Both consolidated sums allocated annually to government officials at both national and local levels, confidential funds (CF) are designated for conducting surveillance operations within civilian government agencies, aimed at bolstering the agency’s objectives or activities.

Intelligence funds (IF), meanwhile, are intended for intelligence-gathering endeavors carried out by uniformed personnel, military members, and intelligence professionals, with a direct bearing on national security.

These funds are meant to support initiatives related to national security, law enforcement, counterterrorism, and other sensitive operations where confidentiality is crucial. 

Confidential and intelligence funds (CIFs) are generally not subject to regular government auditing processes in order to maintain the secrecy and effectiveness of the operations they fund.

In sum, Duterte has sought a total of P650 million in confidential and intelligence funds, divided between the Office of the Vice President (P500 million) and the DepEd (P150 million), according to the 2024 National Expenditure Program.

Overall, 20% of the allocated budget for the Office of the Vice President is designated for CIFs, which are not subject to the usual government audit protocols.

‘Department of Surveillance’

House Deputy Minority Leader and ACT Teachers Representative France Castro criticized the P150-million confidential funds of the education department, purportedly intended for monitoring and surveilling students and teachers suspected of being engaged in illegal recruitment.

“Is the DepEd now a police or military agency that it is conducting surveillance operations on students and teachers? Dapat pala siguro Department of Surveillance na ang tawag dito at ‘di Department of Education (Maybe it should be called the Department of Surveillance instead of the Department of Education),” said Castro.

DepEd Undersecretary and Spokesperson Michael Poa said earlier in an interview on Super Radyo DZBB that the confidential funds will be used to collect information on illegal recruitment in academic institutions and put a stop to such activities.

Itong information na ‘to ay gagamitin natin para po makapag-formulate tayo at makapag-implement ng mga targeted projects, activities, and programs laban sa mga ganitong mga bagay…that poses a risk to our learners and teachers,” he said.

(We will utilize this information to formulate and implement targeted projects, activities, and programs against such matters that pose a risk to our learners and teachers.)

Castro said that this statement is a confirmation of DepEd’s involvement in the profiling, surveillance, and intimidation of members and officials associated with the Alliance of Concerned Teachers.

“We will move for the confidential and intelligence funds [to] be taken out of the DepEd and other civilian agencies and be realigned to the early child care development program because, as of now, it is just P221 million and is definitely not enough for the program,” Castro added. – Rappler.com

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  1. ET

    Indeed, “Education is intertwined with Security”; but it depends on how they are intertwined. To explain the relationship between Education and National Security is enough, but to involve Confidential and Intelligence Funds (CIF) and Red Tagging is another. The latter maybe viewed as an “extension” of her powers as Education Secretary, which is standing on the borderline leaning towards Abuse of Authority. Despite her having been denied of the Defense Secretary position, she still manage to make the best use of the DepEd Secretary position in preparation of the 2028 Presidential Election. The CIF and Red Tagging are perhaps used to sow fear among DepEd teachers who will not “indirectly” help her in the pursuit of her ambition of becoming the next President of the Philippines.

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Jezreel Ines

Jezreel is a researcher-writer at Rappler mainly focused on governance and social issues.