Sen. Leila M. de Lima has expressed concern over the huge increase in confidential and intelligence funds of the government, notably of the Office of the President (OP), under its proposed P3.35-trillion national budget for next year.
During the Senate plenary debate Tuesday night, De Lima noted how the proposed budget of the OP has dramatically ballooned to P20.03 billion which is around P17 billion more than its existing budget of only P2.87 billion for 2016.
“Why must the President spend more than ₱2 billion for confidential and intelligence expenses when there are agencies which specialize in intelligence operations?,” she asked.
Under the proposed 2017 national budget, the President’s confidential and intelligence funds are given an allocation of ₱1 billion – or 400 percent times bigger than the current ₱250 million.
Confidential funds are for surveillance activities in civilian government agencies to support its mandate, while intelligence expenses are for intelligence information gathering of the military, police, and intel agents on matters of national security.
The former justice secretary explained that there are various government agencies which are directly responsible or mandated for the intelligence gathering.
These agencies are the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Intelligence Service, Philippine National Police Intelligence Group, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Intelligence Service, Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency.
De Lima pointed out that a bloated allocation of confidential and intelligence fund under the OP reveals the administration’s apparent distrust on the current intelligence operations.
“The President is the ultimate recipient of intelligence reports and not the one supposed to generate them. Why must he require considerable funds for confidential and intelligence expenses for operations that would render the intelligence operations of the said agencies useless?,” she said.
De Lima recalled that President Duterte made public the so-called “drug matrix” containing names of persons allegedly involved in drug operations inside the New Bilibid Prison. The list that includes herself and other public officials was dismissed as unreliable.
The President had later apologized to some officials he implicated, saying the list had flaws because he was negligent in counterchecking the facts. Both NBI and PDEA had denied their involvement in the preparation of the list of alleged “narco-politicians.”
These instances, De Lima continued, serve as more than proofs that the President does not demand a high standard of intelligence gathering and validation prior to taking appropriate action.
“Should we abolish the intelligence agencies since the President does not trust their operations? Or should we restrict the President’s propensity to generate and act on low quality intelligence?,” she said.
“The President should instead make use of the intelligence reports of our agencies instead of generating them himself,” she said.