MANILA, Philippines – "Billions" in government funds have been given to the Philippine National Police (PNP) by President Rodrigo Duterte to boost his crackdown on illegal drugs.
"Bilyon ang binitawan ko sa inyo (I released billions to you) just to acquire the intelligence capability and everything," said Duterte on Friday, August 9, during the Police Service Anniversary of the PNP.
The other day, Duterte had said he would give the police more resources from an "intelligence fund" to stop the spread of cocaine.
"Bakit marami ngayon ang (Why is there so much) cocaine? Give me the answer. It’s right and left eh. So I’ll give you enough money for intelligence work. Spend it so that you can solve the problem. Magbibigay ako ng (I will give you) intelligence fund," he had said at the oath-taking of newly-promoted police officers in Malacañang.
"I give it in front of everybody. There is P50 million there. You divide it amongst yourselves. According to rank, but give it to all...Even the lowest-ranking soldier so they have something to work with," he said in a mix of English and Filipino.
Last February, Duterte claimed he had also distributed funds to police for "operations" and "intelligence work."
They were supposedly distributed by his then-aide and now senator Bong Go, who Duterte said took not even one cent from the money.
It's not clear where these "billions" or "millions" in funds came from. Is the President referring to funds allocated to the PNP in past and present national budgets?
In the 2019 budget, the PNP was given P61.05 million ($1.17 billion) for intelligence activities. P681.3 million ($13.1 million) were allocated for criminal investigation and other related confidential activities.
Or was Duterte speaking of his office's large intelligence and confidential funds?
Since 2017, the Office of the President has been given P2.5 billion in intelligence and confidential funds, a 400% increase from the 2016 budget of his predecessor Benigno Aquino III.
The Department of Budget and Management previously said the confidential and intelligence funds would be used mainly for Duterte's "war against drugs, criminality and corruption." (READ: Are Duterte's multi-million-peso intel funds achieving their purpose?)
Confidential and intelligence funds are difficult to audit because the offices that spend them are not required to produce receipts.
These funds are expected to be used for "intelligence gathering" or the "purchase of information" necessary for public safety and national security, according to former Commission on Audit chief Grace Pulido Tan. (EXPLAINER: Office of the President's confidential, intel funds)
Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea had defended the budget allocation saying it "helps with running things."
Blasts human rights defenders
In the same speech, Duterte slammed human rights groups and activists for supposedly inflating the number of people who have died in his campaign against illegal drugs.
"Why is this stupid human rights – all of the kllings are charged to us? We are bound by oath of office, I go by government records of what you (police) report to me," said Duterte.
The government insists some 5,500 have been killed in "legitimate" anti-drugs operations. Other groups cite higher figures.
The Commission on Human Rights has said as many as 27,000 may have been killed in the name of the drug war. The Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA), has cited at least 12,000 deaths – including those allegedly killed by vigilantes.
"We have killed about 5 (5,000), well, I'm sorry. They're really armed to kill," said Duterte, echoing the claim of the police that the suspects had to be killed because they "fought back."
Duterte said he gets daily security briefers where the first page lists down all drug cases in the country being investigated by police. Most suspects in these cases reported to him were arrested and not killed, he said. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at email@example.com.