Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

Senate panel approves Office of the President budget in under 30 minutes

Dwight de Leon

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Senate panel approves Office of the President budget in under 30 minutes

LITTLE PRESIDENT. The Commission on Appointments confirmed former Supreme Court chief justice Lucas Bersamin as Executive Secretary on November 23, 2022.

Angie de Silva/Rappler

No question on confidential and intelligence funds was thrown at the Office of the President in the Senate, even though progressive lawmakers in the House have called for their removal

MANILA, Philippines – The Office of the President (OP) breezed through committee-level budget deliberations in the Senate on Wednesday, October 11, with no lawmaker asking the OP questions on its 2024 spending plan.

It took the Senate finance committee only around 21 minutes to tackle the OP’s budget request for next year, similar to how the House appropriations panel terminated the hearing for the president’s office after half an hour.

The topic of confidential and intelligence funds, a hot-button issue that has hogged the headlines in the past month, was not raised.

“There are no colleagues [here], meaning they have a vote of confidence in your budget, so we will favorably endorse your budget for plenary consideration,” said Senator Sonny Angara, who chairs the finance committee.

Both chambers of Congress have been consistent in quickly terminating budget deliberations for the OP and Office of the Vice President, in line with the tradition of parliamentary courtesy, although this has been increasingly frowned upon by critics in recent years.

Unlike in the House appropriations committee, the Senate finance panel asked the OP and the Presidential Management Staff to present the slides they prepared.

“The lifting of the pandemic restrictions provides an avenue for the President to conduct in-person affairs of the state. There are more meetings being now conducted, more presidential public engagements being held, the Cabinet is convened more often,” Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin said in his opening statement.

“We are asking for a modest increase, but at a rate that is within the norm of previous fiscal years,” he added.

In the proposed 2024 budget, the OP is seeking P10.7 billion, including automatic appropriations – higher by P1.6 billion from the current fiscal year.

Around 42% of the OP’s proposed budget for 2024 falls under confidential and intelligence funds (CIF), amounting to P4.56 billion.

The progressive Makabayan bloc has urged Congress to take away the President’s secret, difficult-to-audit funds, but the House retained it in its version of the budget bill.

Senate panel approves Office of the President budget in under 30 minutes

“We call on President Marcos Jr. to give up his P4.56 billion confidential and intelligence funds, which is almost half of the total CIF. These funds should be redirected to basic social services especially amid the high prices of food and meager wages,” Gabriela Representative Arlene Brosas said on Tuesday, October 10. – Rappler.com

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  1. ET

    What happened to the minority opposition in the Senate? Or were they all absent?

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Dwight de Leon

Dwight de Leon is a multimedia reporter who covers President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the Malacañang, and the Commission on Elections for Rappler.