MANILA- Malacañang defended Tuesday the proposed P1.5 billion increase in the budget of President Rodrigo Duterte's office, saying the raise is "necessary" for public service.
The Duterte administration is proposing an P8.2 billion budget for the Office of the President next year, P1.5 billion higher than the P6.7 billion this year.
In 2018, the Office of the President had a P6-billion budget.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Duterte's office needs additional funding since it usually "steps in to extend a helping hand and augment whatever shortage there may be in delivering the requisite assistance."
"The Palace reiterates that the increase in the budget of the Office of the President, where the seat of power and supremacy in governance lies, is necessary in order to provide efficient, meaningful and effective public service to the Filipino people," Panelo said in a statement.
Panelo added that the additional amount is necessary to protect the country from threats.
"The intensified efforts of this government, with the Office of the President at the helm, against criminality and various perils against the Philippines' security and sovereignty have indeed created a changed environment in our society where the people feel safe as they go about living their daily lives," he said.
In the proposed 2020 national budget, the Office of the President wants P2.25 billion allotted each for its confidential and intelligence expenses, totaling P4.5 billion, almost twice the amounts for last year and this year.
In 2018 and 2019, the amount Duterte's office requested was at P2.5 billion in each of those years, split between confidential and intelligence expenses at P1.25 billion each.
DBM official says intel fund hike 'justified'
An official of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), meanwhile, said on Tuesday that the increase in intelligence funds sought by the Office of the President for 2020 is justified.
"It is to us justified because we ourselves are not privy to the extent of national security issues," said DBM Acting Secretary Wendel Avisado.
But Avisado could not give further details on how the additional funds would be used.
He said he leaves it up to the President to share the current situation of the country in light of threats and issues affecting the West Philippine Sea, the country's exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea, which is being claimed by China in near entirety.
"And the ongoing support that we're giving out to BARMM (Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) and the normalization program so that we'll be able to institutionalize what is required of us to do to obtain and achieve lasting peace and progress in Mindanao," he said.
BARMM is the region created in Mindanao out of the peace agreement between government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, meanwhile, warned the Philippines is turning into a police state after Duterte's office sought to double its intelligence funds for next year.
Zarate, who serves as House deputy minority leader, urged colleagues to "thoroughly scrutinize the proposed national budget, especially on this surveillance budget and its further threats to human rights."