De Lima backs revival of Senate oversight panel on intel funds


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Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has expressed support to the Senate’s plan to reactivate a special oversight panel that would be tasked to scrutinize the government’s use and disposal of intelligence, confidential and extraordinary funds.

De Lima issued the statement after Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Sen. Panfilo Lacson filed Senate Resolution (SR) 310 seeking to revive the Senate Select Oversight Committee on Intelligence and Confidential funds.

“I support the Senate leadership’s recent move to provide vigilant legislative oversight function on how and where billions of intelligence and confidential funds granted to certain government agencies are being used,” she said.

“These funds have ballooned over the past years, and it is worrisome that since they are exempted from audit – and granted by Congress in record time –, we need to assure that they are not used to target the opposition in the guise of national security,” she added.

Under SR 310, the oversight committee will be allowed to conduct inquiries and subpoena witnesses and documents about the use, disbursement and expenditures of the intelligence and confidential funds which are not subject to regular audit.

According to the resolution, the oversight panel will “enable the Senate to oversee the efficiency of concerned government institutions in the production of accurate and timely information to better deal with the threats to national security.”

This year, Congress has allocated a total of PhP9.601 billion for Intelligence and Confidential Funds to implement the government programs and activities related to national defense, peace and order, and national security.

It may be recalled that in the past three years of the Duterte administration, the budget for Confidential, Intelligence and Extraordinary (CIE) funds of government agencies, including the Office of the President, has ballooned significantly.

For De Lima, it remains unclear to many Filipinos why the President requires that his office receives PhP2.5 billion every year for the past three budget seasons, while some programs, such as badly needed calamity funds are slashed.

“I have been consistently calling to scrutinize the CIE funds of this administration. In fact, in July 2019, I filed Senate Bill No. 377, to seek, among others, the creation of Joint Congressional Intelligence Committee or JCIC,” she said.

“Through the creation of the JCIC, Congress will exercise its oversight powers to monitor and oversee intelligence activities. We can start asking the real questions to know if it is justified to prioritize intel programs over others,” she explained.

Also under SB 377, all entities of the Philippine government which conduct intelligence activities and receive intelligence funds must keep the JCIC fully informed of all its intelligence activities, including any significant anticipated intelligence activity and any significant intelligence failure.

Once enacted into law, the measure mandates concerned government offices to obtain a signed letter from the President, or from the respective head of the constitutional body in cases involving entities enjoying fiscal autonomy, specifically authorizing the proposed intelligence activity before any amount is disbursed and expended for the proposed intelligence activity.

“The Filipino people must be assured that Congress sees it important to demand accountability and prudence in disbursing billions of intelligence funds even as it recognizes the imperative necessity of said funds for our national security,” De Lima stressed. (30)

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