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Lacson seeks more scrutiny of surge in Duterte's intel funds

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Panfilo Lacson said on Saturday, July 7, that both Congress and the Commission on Audit (COA) should conduct further scrutiny of President Rodrigo Duterte's confidential and intelligence funds, which unusually increased by 250% from the year before.

"Tingnan, itanong, at malaman kung bakit kailangan ganoon kalaki ang talon ng intelligence fund sa Office of the President. Nasa mandate ng Kongreso 'yan," Lacson said in an interview over radio DWIZ on Saturday.

(We should look, ask, and find out why there was a need for that kind of increase in the Office of the President's intelligence funds. That's part of Congress' mandate.)

The Commission on Audit (COA) revealed in its recently-released audit report of the Office of the President (OP) that Duterte spent P2.5 billion in confidential and intelligence funds in 2017, compared to the P705 million that the OP spent in 2016. (EXPLAINER: Office of the President's confidential, intel funds)

Duterte was allotted another P2.5 billion in confidential and intelligence funds for 2018. The budget department said it is for the president's campaign against drugs, crime, and corruption.

Lacson said he personally wants to know the reason behind the unprecedented increase. No other Philippine president since 1989 had gone beyond the P1 billion mark in their yearly confidential and intelligence funds.

Lacson said that he expects even Duterte's allies in Congress to scrutinize the OP's intelligence funds when they deliberate on the 2019 budget.

Although Lacson acknowledges the difficulty in auditing confidential and intelligence funds because of its very nature, the senator said lawmakers can exhaust their oversight functions.

"Ang dapat dito papaano ginastos. Of course, 'pag sinabing confidential and intelligence funds, 'di ka-tedious o ka-intricate ang pag-liquidate dahil intelligence fund. Dapat obligasyon pa rin ng gumagamit ng pondo kung papaano gagamitin ito," Lacson said.

(We should look at how they spent it. Of course, if you say confidential and intelligence funds, the liquidation wouldn't be as tedious and intricate. But it's still the obligation of the agency how these funds will be spent.)

Lacson added: "At kung hindi maipakita ang justification, puwede bawasan 'yan. Dahil hindi naman talaga ma-justify ng gumagamit na ahensya ang ganoon kalaking confidential and intelligence fund." 

(If they cannot provide a justification, we can decrease that. Because the agency can't really justify such a big amount for confidential and intelligence funds.)

Lacson said it's "not absolutely true" that COA cannot dig into the use of confidential and intelligence funds.

"Under the existing rules on liquidation, 'di talaga puwede busisiin nang todo ang paggamit ng confidential and intelligence fund. Pero puwede patingnan kung paano nagamit," Lacson said.

(Under the existing rules on liquidation, you cannot really scrutinize each and every detail of how the confidential and intelligence fund was used. But you can scrutinize how it was used.) – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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