MalacaÑang was asked on Tuesday by a lawmaker critical of the Duterte administration to justify a P2.5-billion increase in confidential and intelligence funds of the Office of the President (OP).
Senator Antonio Trillanes 4th at the same time said he intends to realign the funds with those of other government agencies that also gather intelligence and fight drugs.
The President’s office in its 2017 proposed budget is asking for P1.25 billion in intelligence funds and P1.25
billion in confidential funds that will be used primarily in intelligence operations and the government’s campaign against illegal drugs.
The office has only P500 million in confidential and intelligence funds for this year.
Security agencies under the OP include the Philippine Center for Transnational Crime, Anti-Terrorism Council, National Coast Watch Council and the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force.
Trillanes clarified that he is not opposing the Palace proposal and that the campaign against illegal drugs needs funding support but he said he believes that there are other government agencies more capable of doing the job.
“We just want it to be systematic because there are new agencies under the Office of the President that need immediate funding,” he told a Senate finance committee hearing on the proposed budget of the OP.
Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea also told the committee that the funds would be used mostly for intelligence gathering in support of the government’s anti-drug campaign and as well as other security threats.
The senator said he is not concerned with the ability of the President’s office to disburse the funds properly but with the operational capability of the office to conduct illegal-drug and intelligence operations.
He pointed out that if the primary objective of the OP is the war on drugs, it is “very much” warranted to realign a portion of the funds with those of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), the main agency involved in anti-illegal drug operations.
Instead of releasing the entire P2.5 billion to the OP, which will then augment funds of agencies needing additional intelligence funds, it might be better if the funds are given directly to agencies especially those with small intelligence budgets, according to Trillanes.
If the OP failed to justify the budget increase it is seeking, he said he would move to have the requested funds transferred to the Philippine National Police, Armed Forces of the Philippines and other appropriate agencies.