2023 NATIONAL BUDGET OK'D. Senator Juan Edgardo "Sonny" Angara, Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Finance, shows the bundle of documents and delivers bicameral conference report at the Plenary hall of the Senate on Monday (Dec. 5, 2022). Representatives from the upper and lower chambers of Congress approved the report on the 2023 national budget. (PNA photo by Avito Dalan) 

MANILA – Senator Sonny Angara on Tuesday called "misleading" the comparisons between the Department of Education's (DepEd) confidential fund and that of National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA).

Angara, who chairs the Senate Committee on Finance, made the statement during an interview with CNN's The Source where he was asked why NICA has lower confidential and intelligence funds (CIF) than DepEd.

He explained that NICA is an agency only dedicated to intelligence gathering and cannot be compared to DepEd based only on its CIF.

"All of the salaries of personnel there are meant for intelligence. So, the budget of the whole agency is really for intelligence. So, the comparison is a little misleading because the budget of NICA is several hundreds of millions, not billions. That should be the basis because everyone there in the NICA are devoted to intelligence gathering and dissemination and assessing of threats to national security, among others," Angara said.

DepEd, on the other hand, the lawmaker said has personal services budget with personnel whose mandate is to teach and can use its CIF to buy information or provide protective services.

"Let's say there are abused children for instance, you can spend that money to help that family or that child. But in the case of the NICA, each person employed by the NICA is not in teaching obviously but they're in intelligence gathering. So, you should be looking at the entire budget if you're analyzing the budget of the NICA," Angara explained.

He also allayed fears that the CIFs granted to other government agencies and offices could be subject to abuse saying that these will be examined closely by Congress and the Commission on Audit (COA).

Under the General Appropriations Act (GAA), Angara said there is a provision requiring the grantees of CIFs to submit regular reports to both Houses of Congress and to the President.

For confidential fund recipient agencies and offices, they are required to submit quarterly accomplishment reports to both the President and the two Houses of Congress.

In the case of intelligence funds, the quarterly reports are submitted to the President.

“The guidelines on the allocation, use and reporting on the confidential and intelligence funds are contained in Joint Circular 2015-01 issued by COA, DBM (Department of Budget and Management), DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government), the GCG (Governance Commission for Government-owned or Controlled Corporations), and DND (Department of National Defense). On top of this, the Senate, through Senate President Migz Zubiri, has initiated the creation of a select oversight committee to look into the use of the funds. These are in place to ensure the proper use of these funds,” Angara said.

“There will be periodic meetings of the select oversight committee to assess whether these funds are being used wisely by the agencies involved,” he added.

Under, Senate Resolution No. 302, Zubiri created the Select Oversight Committee on CIFs, which has been done by the Senate since the 10th Congress.

The oversight committee will “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.”

Under Joint Circular 2015-01, the CIFs cannot be used to pay salaries and other benefits, representation or consultancy fees or for the construction/acquisition of buildings or houses.

Angara said the Senate was able to realign around PHP70 million of the CIFs from different agencies in the bicameral conference report on the 2023 budget which was ratified by both Houses on Monday. (PNA)