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It's confidential: The rollercoaster fiasco of confidential funds in 2023
It's confidential: The rollercoaster fiasco of confidential funds in 2023
Nation
It's confidential: The rollercoaster fiasco of confidential funds in 2023
by Ada Pelonia26 December 2023

The month of August started the rumble of confidential funds fiasco for government agencies.

During that month, Vice President Sara Duterte defended the Department of Education’s (DepEd) proposed P150 million confidential funds for next year.

She stated that a person’s education is intertwined with national security, but failed to discuss how the big-ticket proposal would be used since the details were confidential.

The Office of the Vice President (OVP) also sought for P500 million confidential and intelligence funds (CIF) for its 2024 budget.

According to the Joint Memorandum Circular (JMC) 2015- 01, “confidential fund refers to the lump-sum amount provided as such in the General Appropriations Act for National Government Agencies, in appropriation ordinances for local government units, and in the corporate operating budgets or COBs for government-owned and controlled corporations, for their confidential expenses.”

OK’d by Senate

In September, the Senate Committee on Finance approved the OVP’s P2.3 billion budget request for next year along with the P500 million proposed allocation for confidential and intelligence funds (CIF).

According to Vice President Sara Duterte, the proposed budget would fund “safe, secure, and implementation of the projects, programs, activities, and engagements and all of the satellite offices, including the central office of the OVP,” while failing to divulge the agency’s intelligence-collection operations.

Duterte drew flak from the proposed budget under CIF, with lawmakers and lawmakers stating it as “unconstitutional” and an “impeachable offense.”

She broke her silence by thanking President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and other officials who backed her office while taking a jab at the “indignity” and “flair for drama” that Senator Risa Hontiveros and the Makabayan solons showed, to which Hontiveros replied: "Trabaho lang, walang drama.”

‘11 days’ issue

The confidential fund problem was dug when DepEd received P150 million in confidential funds for its 2023 budget last year, which was later revealed to have been spent in 11 days, according to the House Committee on Appropriations senior vice chairperson and Marikina Rep. Stella Quimbo.

Quimbo said that the audit on the liquidation report was ongoing and the Commission on Audit (COA) would finish it by November.

House Appropriations Panel Vice Chair Maria Carmen Zamora, however, said that the 11-day issue was “inaccurate,” claiming that the OVP spent P125 million CIF budget to implement its programs or when the Special Allotment Release Order (SARO) was released.

CIFs reallocation

Congress concurred to reallocate the CIFs to agencies handling national security after China’s actions in the West Philippine Sea.

Solons said the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA), the National Security Council (NSC), the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR). Would receive added funding.

Senate President Migz Zubiri backed the decision, stating that the Congress would reallocate funds “that we feel are not necessary for the use of certain agencies and allocate them to our Intelligence Community as well as our Coast Guard and AFP.”

Zubiri, however, said they were reviewing every agency regarding CIFs.

House Committee Chairman on Appropriations Elizaldy Co said that about P650 million of the combined CIF from the OVP and DepEd would be transferred to the budget of intelligence and security agencies.

Meanwhile, Duterte defended her office by stating that it was important for the peace and order of the country.

"Tandaan ninyo, kung sino man ang kumokontra sa confidential funds ay kumokontra sa kapayapaan. Kung sino ang kumokontra sa kapayapaan ay kalaban ng bayan," she said.

In October, OVP, DepEd, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), the Department of Agriculture (DA), and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) were stripped of their CIFs, according to Co, stating that the small committee decided to realign the CIFs to “ensure the protection of our national sovereignty.”

CIFs withdrawal

After the DepEd and OVP were stripped of their CIFs, Duterte withdrew its combined P650 million confidential funds for the 2024 budget.

DepEd spokesperson Michael Poa said the OVP would not pursue its budget request since it might lead to “disunity”.

Budget sponsor Senator Pia Cayetano also revealed the DepEd would not pursue its confidential funds anymore.

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