Philippine national budget 2024

Stella Quimbo seeks creation of special oversight panel on confidential funds

Dwight de Leon

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Stella Quimbo seeks creation of special oversight panel on confidential funds

LAWMAKER. Marikina City 2nd District Representative Stella Quimbo in September 2023.


Lawmaker Stella Quimbo also proposes that inter-agency transfers of confidential funds be reported to Congress, although her party mate Edcel Lagman wants such transactions completely prohibited

MANILA, Philippines – House appropriations panel senior vice chairperson Stella Quimbo of Marikina City’s 2nd District proposed that the chamber create a special oversight committee “to increase transparency in the use of confidential and intelligence funds by government agencies.”

Quimbo made the proposal when she sponsored the proposed 2024 budget of the Commission on Audit (COA) on Monday, September 25.

She said this proposed committee – composed of three members from the majority and one from the minority – would have complete access to reports on confidential and intelligence funds that are submitted to COA.

“I believe that public funds should be used for the development of the nation. This can only be achieved with a stronger push towards transparent governance,” she said.

Government agencies’ use of confidential funds has been put under a microscope after critics flagged the P125 million in confidential expenses that the Sara Duterte-led Office of the Vice President (OVP) incurred in 2022. COA said on Monday the money was gone after only an 11-day period that year.

Stella Quimbo seeks creation of special oversight panel on confidential funds

Quimbo, meanwhile, has earned the ire of critics for defending Duterte, since the lawmaker was previously associated with the House opposition under the administration of Sara’s father, former president Rodrigo Duterte.

Inter-agency transfers

The OVP was not supposed to have confidential expenses in 2022, since Duterte’s predecessor Leni Robredo did not ask for such funds.

It was later established that Duterte, upon succeeding Robredo, asked the Office of the President to provide the OVP with secret funds. The OP approved the request, and the Department of Budget and Management released it to her office.

The transaction has been flagged by critics, including Robredo’s former spokesperson, as unconstitutional, since there was no line item on confidential funds in the OVP’s budget.

Quimbo has justified the release, saying the existing line item that enabled the transfer was the OVP’s Good Governance Program in the 2022 General Appropriations Act.

On Monday, Quimbo proposed that Congress be informed at all times when inter-agency transfers of confidential funds would be made.

“There should be a reportorial requirement for any transfers of confidential funds as well as intelligence funds within agencies across offices or across agencies, as well as objects of expenditure. These may be happening at the moment, but these are not reported to Congress,” Quimbo said.

In response, Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman said if he were to choose, he would rather that inter-agency transfers be strictly prohibited.

“If the mandate does not include the utilization of confidential or intelligence funds, then such agency should not get any appropriation for confidential and intelligence funds,” said Lagman, president of the Liberal Party, of which Quimbo is still a member.

“Instead of delimiting, or reducing, or defining the transfer, there should be no transfer of confidential and intelligence fund from one agency to another,” Lagman added.

Other suggestions by Quimbo include coming up with a more accurate definition of confidential funds, and requiring government agencies to submit a position paper on why they are entitled to such funds.

What are confidential funds?

2015 joint circular released by five government agencies defines confidential expenses as those pertaining to surveillance activities in civilian government agencies, while intelligence expenses are those related to intel information-gathering activities of uniformed and military personnel that have direct impact on national security.

Confidential and intelligence funds are much more difficult to audit, because they are exempted from COA’s standard procedures.

For 2024, the Marcos administration wants P10.1 billion in confidential and intelligence funds scattered across government agencies.

The OP would get nearly half of that or P4.56 billion based on the proposal, with P2.25 billion in confidential funds and P2.3 billion in intelligence funds.

Before Marcos’ predecessor Rodrigo Duterte became president, confidential and intelligence fund allocations under the OP did not exceed P1 billion.

Duterte’s OVP requested P500 million, and her Department of Education sought P150 million.

The Department of Agriculture – also led by Marcos – wants P50 million in confidential funds for 2024. The agency does not have confidential funds for the current year. –

1 comment

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  1. ET

    Congratulations to Hon. Stella Quimbo for an Excellent Defense of the fund “release” from the OP to OVP and the Confidential Funds of both offices, too. President Marcos Jr. and VP Sara Duterte are both very happy with what you have done. Expect the Best Rewards from your Political Patrons come December this year and you will be very busy spending it within an eleven-day period.

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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.