• Use of intel funds ‘confidential’

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    After continuously refusing to give details on their use of intelligence funds, Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. revealed on Friday that the budget is being used in confidential matters including surveillance and securing key witnesses.

    “It is used for intelligence, for surveillance, for something confidential… matters that involve security and public interests,” the poll chief disclosed to reporters.

    The Comelec head also enumerated that the allotted funds are for securing witnesses who help them prosecute poll violators. “We use it for safe houses, which we don’t say where. These operations need funds.”

    He said earlier that the funds were approved by the Office of the President and therefore aboveboard. “There is clearance from Malacañang . . . all the supporting documents are there,” Brillantes said in justifying the controversial fund.

    Last week, former Comelec commissioner Augusto “Gus” Lagman revealed that officials of the poll body are receiving intelligence funds which they do not liquidate.

    Lagman admitted that he received P1.25 million as “I.F.” during his term but returned the money.

    Meanwhile, a staunch critic of the Comelec, Automated Election System Watch (AES Watch) expressed concerns saying that they are among the prime targets of alleged spy operations using the intelligence budget.

    However, the poll chief immediately denied the accusations from the multi-sectoral group.

    “I can guarantee and I can swear to everybody that I am not spying or investigating the AES Watch,” Brillantes said.

    He added that the commission en banc is prepared to face a full-blown official investigation on their intelligence funds.

    “It’s okay if they investigate our intelligence funds. But I think they should include Malacañang since it’s the one that approved it,” the Comelec chief said.

    Brillantes said that Lagman should also be included in the investigation to explain his own intelligence funds.

    “He should also be able to explain what he did to his I.F. I want to know what he did to the money since he did not return the check I gave him. He returned it but using his own check. It means that the money was used already,” the poll chief said.

    Earlier, Malacañang defended the Comelec on the issue of the controversial funds.

    Following the General Appropriations Act, Palace deputy spokesman Abigail Valte said President Benigno Aquino 3rd himself approved the commission’s request to realign the poll body’s savings to intelligence funds for this year’s elections.

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