• Palace intel fund bigger than AFP’s

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    Why is the Office of the President’s (OP) intelligence funds bigger than that of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)?

    ACT Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio threw this question at Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa during the budget hearing for the Office of the President (OP) on Monday.

    Tinio’s curiosity was roused after he went over the OP’s maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) worth P1.998 billion.

    He found that P508 million, a fourth of the MOOE, is broken down into confidential expenses (P240 million), extraordinary and miscellaneous expenses (P18 million), and intelligence expenses (P250-million).

    In comparison, the AFP only has P350 million in intelligence funds, Tinio noted.

    “Isn’t it relatively big? One-fourth of the MOOE for an agency are confidential funds? Isn’t that unusual?” Tinio prodded Ochoa.

    Ochoa replied it is not unusual for the OP to have such a budget since sub-agencies under the Executive department, including the Anti-Terrorism Council and Security Council, also need such funds.

    “There’s nothing unusual, your honor, considering the Office of the President covers the entire bureaucracy,” he said.

    The President has the power to augment the budget as he deems fit, Ochoa said, and this power extends to the agencies under the Executive.

    President Benigno Aquino 3rd exercised that power when he asked the Department of Interior and Local Government headed by Secretary Mar Roxas to implement a housing project for informal settlers living along waterways, instead of asking the National Housing Authority led by Vice President Jejomar Binay.

    The OP has an approved budget of P2.790 billion for 2014, a 3.32 percent increase from this year’s. The biggest slice—71.61 percent—goes to the MOOE, 21.81 percent goes to personnel services, and 6.57 percent to capital outlay.

    Despite the huge allocation for the confidential and intelligence funds, Ochoa cannot confirm where the P643 million in rewards for the capture of 200 wanted high-profile communists and Abu Sayyaf leaders will be drawn.

    At the budget hearing of the Department of National Defense last week, AFP Chief Emmanuel Bautista told the lawmakers that the money for the reward will come from the OP.

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