MANILA- Left-leaning lawmakers questioned Monday the proposed P4.5 billion for President Rodrigo Duterte's confidential and intelligence fund, which is about half of his office budget for 2020.
Bayan Muna Representatives Eufemia Cullamat and Ferdinand Gaite said the increase in the Office of the President's budget for 2020 is unprecedented. Duterte's office is seeking an P8.2-billion total budget for 2020, higher than the P6.7 billion allocated for this year.
In 2018 and 2019, the amount the OP requested was at P2.5 billion in each of those 2 years, or P1.25 billion split between confidential and intelligence expenses.
"Napakalaki ng P8 billion budget ng tanggapan ng Pangulo kung saan mahigit kalahati o P4.5 billion ay hindi malinaw sa mamamayan kung saan talaga mapupunta," Cullamat said.
(An P8 billion budget for the Office of the President is too big and it's not clear where over half or P4.5 billion will be used.)
House Appropriations Committee Chair Isidro Ungab, however, said the funding is necessary since Duterte is the commander-in-chief of the military.
"The President, as commander-in-chief of the AFP needs intelligence and confidential information in the performance of his duty in order to effectively, efficiently and precisely plan efforts to suppress the threats against national security, terrorism, campaign against illegal drugs, insurgency and transational crimes," he said.
"I think it's only proper and fitting we provide the amount as requested by the OP in order for the OP to be able to deliver effectively and efficiently the needs of the country," he said.
Ungab also disagreed that the proposed increase is unprecedented, saying the proposal is "based on coordinated and integrated intelligence estimates of local and foreign situations for the formulation of the national policies of the President."
Despite scrutiny, the proposed budget for the Office of the President still hurdled deliberations at the plenary session of the House.
Prior to the OP, the House of Representatives has so far completed debates on the budgets of 39 departments, agencies, and government-owned and controlled corporations.
This figure represents 54 percent of the 72 government offices scheduled for plenary deliberations until Sept. 20.