Ranking House lawmakers seek to redirect confidential funds to PCG, other agencies
September 27, 2023 | 1:37pm
MANILA, Philippines — Following heated debates at the House of Representatives over the alleged excessive allocation of confidential and intelligence funds in civilian agencies, ranking lawmakers have “collectively” decided to redirect the secret funds to agencies “chiefly responsible for intelligence and surveillance.”
Citing fresh incidents of Chinese aggression, including the Chinese Coast Guard’s installation of physical barriers in Scarborough Shoals, party leaders at the lower chamber said they want confidential and intelligence funds to be reallocated to the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA), National Security Council (NSC), Philippine Coast Guard, and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).
“Recognizing the rising security threats in the West Philippine Sea and the need to secure top officials, these agencies are better positioned to counteract security threats, protect our territorial waters, and secure the rights and access of Filipino fishermen to traditional fishing grounds,” the lawmakers said in a joint statement on Wednesday.
Signatories of the statement are the following:
- Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) President Rep. Michael John Duavit (Rizal, 1st District)
- Lakas-CMD Secretary-General Rep. Jose “Joboy” Aquino II (Agusan del Norte 1st district)
- Nacionalista Party (NP) Member Rep. Eleandro Jesus “Budoy” Madrona (Romblon)
- Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) Vice President for Mindanao Rep. Johnny Pimentel (Surigao del Sur, 2nd District)
- National Unity Party President (NUP) Rep. LRay Villafuerte (Camarines Sur)
- Party-list Coalition Foundation Inc. (PCFI) Member Rep. Angelica Natasha Co (BHW Partylist)
The House is ruled by a supermajority composed of a multi-party alliance that, months ago, rushed to declare its support of House Speaker Martin Romualdez when talks of his ouster spread among lawmakers.
All parties represented in the signatories have an alliance agreement with Lakas-CMD.
Lakas-CMD is also the former political party of Vice President Sara Duterte, whose request for P650 million in secret funds for the Office of the Vice President and the Department of Education combined escaped scrutiny during panel deliberations of the proposed 2024 budget. Duterte exited the party in May.
According to the joint statement, the lawmakers saw “the need to ensure that resource allocation aligns with national priorities and the urgent needs of the citizenry.”
The Chinese Coast Guard’s installation of a floating device — which the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) has since removed — “not only impedes the rights and livelihoods of our Filipino fishermen but also disrupts the prevailing atmosphere of regional peace and collaboration,” the statement read.
The PCG removed the floating barriers to assert the country’s jurisdiction of the area in line with the 2016 Hague ruling that invalidated China’s sweeping claims in the West Philippine Sea.
This development comes after Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri vowed last month to explore the potential reallocation of confidential and intelligence funds to the Philippine Coast Guard.
In response to the statement, Makabayan bloc lawmakers said they would “await more information” and cautioned the House leaders to “be fully transparent with the public on the reallocations that they intend to make in the 2024 General Appropriations Bill.”
“Our stand is for Congress to abolish Confidential Funds and drastically reduce Intelligence Funds. This is to address the gross and unconscionable inflation of CIF over the years, particularly since the time of the Duterte administration,” the lawmakers said.
The minority lawmakers also stressed that the secret funds are vulnerable to “misuse and outright corruption” and suggested for expenditures related to national security be represented in line items instead.
“Reallocating funds to address external threats, particularly the aggressive incursions of China in our EEZ, is necessary, but not all these funds need to be confidential in nature,” the lawmakers said.