SENATE President Vicente Sotto 3rd and Sen. Panfilo Lacson have sought the reconstitution of the oversight committee on intelligence and confidential funds to ensure the judicious use of public funds.

The lawmakers filed Senate Resolution (SR) 310 creating an oversight committee on intelligence and confidential funds, programs and activities.

They noted that in the 2020 General Appropriations Act, P9.6 billion was allotted for intelligence and confidential funds to implement government programs relative to national defense, peace and order and national security.

“It is incumbent upon the Senate to continue to exercise its functions over the use, disbursement and expenditures of intelligence funds granted to certain agencies,” Sotto and Lacson said.

They intend to conduct an inquiry on the allegation of Eliseo Rio Jr., former officer in charge (OIC) and undersecretary of the Department of Information and Communications and Technology (DICT), that the agency’s P300-million intelligence fund had been misused.

Rio recently resigned from his post after DICT Secretary Gregorio Honasan 2nd allegedly withheld information from him on how the agency’s confidential funds were used.

Sotto said Honasan “will be given a chance to explain once our oversight committee inquires [on the matter].”

“We drafted and filed the resolution way before this issue came about. [The] hearing will be public. [There is] Nothing to hide,” he added.

Asked about the possibility that Honasan may face a Senate probe, Lacson said, “Once the resolution that SP (Senate President) Sotto and I filed early this week is adopted and the oversight committee is reconstituted, we will meet to decide on the way forward.”

“SP and I talked about that possibility yesterday albeit briefly. We both think Secretary Honasan deserves the opportunity to give his side amid all the insinuations aired by his close friend, Usec Rio,” he added.

“This may sound irrelevant to the issue at hand, but I happen to know that he did not in any way seek his present cabinet position. In fact, it was his personal effort to ‘lobby’ for the permanent appointment of then-DICT OIC Rio that brought him there,” Lacson said in a text message.

Sotto and Lacson noted that from the 10th to the 17th Congress, a Senate Oversight Committee on Intelligence and Confidential Funds, Programs and Activities was created.

“In light of the recent threats to our country’s national security, including disturbance to peace and order by lawless elements, the importance of gathering intelligence information by concerned government agencies cannot be overstated,” they said.

“Considering the nature of the intelligence and confidential funds which are usually subject to the regular auditing rules and procedures of the Commission on Audit, there is a need to reconstitute the Senate Oversight Committee on Intelligence and Confidential Funds, Programs and Activities to enable the Senate to oversee the efficiency of concerned government institutions in the production of accurate and timely intelligence information to better deal with the threats to national security, including the maintenance of peace and order, thereby providing a safety environment and secure place of abode to the people,” the resolution said.

The oversight committee on intelligence funds will “investigate the efficiency of relevant government agencies in their use of intelligence and confidential funds for the prevention of crimes, apprehension of criminals, and protection of national security and territorial integrity.”

It will also “summon by subpoena any witness to testify before it, or require by subpoena duces tecum the production of documents, books, records and other papers as may be necessary in the performance of its function.”

It will be composed of chairman of the Senate Committee on National Security and Defense, four members representing the majority and two members representing the minority.