Villarin worries over President’s P2B intelligence, confidential funds

MANILA, Philippines – A lawmaker is hoping the proposed confidential and intelligence funds of the Office of the President (OP) for 2019 will not be used against the opposition under the guise of “national security.”

This was Akbayan Representative Tom Villarin’s manifestation on Friday, September 21 during his interpellation of House committee on appropriations vice chairperson Maria Carmen Zamora, who was defending the P6.7-billion proposed budget of the OP at the plenary. 

“This representation also hopes, especially this oversight on national security concerns which has a huge budget together with other confidential [items] under the OP, hopefully cannot be used against the opposition [under the guise of the] word, ‘national security concerns,” said Villarin.

Before making the manifestation, he asked Zamora to break down the OP’s proposed budget for next year, which includes P1.25 billion each for "Confidential Expenses" and "Intelligence Expenses.” (READ: EXPLAINER: Office of the President's confidential, intel funds)

Villarin then alluded to President Rodrigo Duterte’s previous claim there were threats to "assassinate" him and seize government power on Friday, the 46th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law by the ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Opposition groups have already denied the allegation.

“What has been happening in our country right now? There’s this thinking, feeling that going to the elections of 2019, there would be attempts to silence the opposition or to put a gag on all those who are opposing the present administration,” said Villarin.

He then urged his colleagues in Congress to exercise “due diligence in terms of providing oversight to  the budget of the OP.”

Plenary deliberations on the OP's budget were terminated on Friday afternoon. The next step will be the period of amendments, where lawmakers can opt to retain or modify the allocations.

The OP’s proposed amount for its confidential and intelligence funds in 2019 is the same with the allocations in 2018 and 2017. It is 400% higher than the confidential and intelligence funds in 2016, where the amount was at P250 million each. 

Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, however, previously said the allocations were acceptable because the funds were being used effectively.

The Department of Budget and Management previously said the confidential and intelligence funds would be used "mainly for President Rodrigo R. Duterte's war against drugs, criminality and corruption.” 

Former Commission on Audit chief Grace Pulido Tan had explained these funds are expected to be used for "intelligence gathering" or the "purchase of information" necessary for public safety and national security. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the Senate and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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