Senator Leila M. de Lima has questioned the lack of scrutiny by the respective panels of the Senate and the House of Representatives of the proposed 2020 P4.5-billion “confidential, intelligence and extraordinary” funds under the Office of the President (OP).
De Lima, a former justice secretary, reminded her fellow lawmakers in the Senate and House that approving a proposed budget of any government office, including that of the OP, without serious scrutiny is tantamount to neglect of duty by government officials.
“Approving with dispatch the proposed budget of any government office, including the Office of the President, is commendable,” De Lima said in her recent Dispatch from Crame No. 602.
“But doing so sans an iota of scrutiny is dereliction of duty on the part of our officials, and dangerous in more ways than one – especially under this administration that is notorious in inserting and tucking funds within the financial rigmarole,” she added.
Last Sept. 11, the Senate Finance Sub-Committee presided by Special Assistant to the President-turned-Senator Christopher “Bong” Go reportedly approved the proposed 2020 P8.2-billion budget for the OP in record time of less than 10 minutes.
The said Senate panel’s hearing concluded without any questions from Go, even on Confidential, Intelligence and Extraordinary (CIE) funds that notably doubled its proposed amount for 2020.
OP’s proposed P8.2-billion budget for 2020 is 21 percent higher than the P6.77-billion it got this year. The P4.5-billion budget for confidential, intelligence and extraordinary funds is almost double the budget it asked for in the previous three years.
De Lima, the most vocal critic of the administration’s crooked policies, questioned why Mr. Duterte would need such huge budget for CIE funds when there are already various government agencies which are directly mandated for the intelligence gathering.
“[W]hy does Mr. Duterte need a gigantic amount of (CIE) funds and why the House at the Committee level several days ago, and now the Senate Sub-Committee, allowed the approval of this budget without a thorough vetting or due diligence? We are talking about 4.5 billion pesos of public funds that will be spent outside the microscope of audit,” she said.
“Kahit pa mga santo ang naghain ng budget, kailangan naman suriin natin at busisiin, dahil higit sa usapin ng magandang intensyon, pagtupad ito sa tungkulin na maingat na gastusin ang pera ng bayan sa kapakinabangan ng mamamayan,” she added.
The lady Senator from Bicol maintained that the national budget must follow the law and common reason and carry the agenda of the people instead of the whims and agenda of politicians, including the President who is known for his empty promises.
“Every promise of reform that Duterte wants to fulfil since day one in office, there is another fabric of society that he rips apart. This has been the formula of governance by this President,” she said.
In her Dispatch from Crame No. 594, De Lima has also questioned the failure by the Lower House to exercise its oversight function over the Intelligence Funds of the President following the House of Appropriations Committee’s approval of the proposed P4.5-billion budget for the OP’s CIE funds out of “traditional courtesy.”