MANILA – Lawmakers on Wednesday said the House of Representatives' decision to realign confidential funds amounting to PHP1.23 billion of different government agencies was the "right thing to do" as shown by a recent OCTA survey, indicating that majority of the Filipinos agree with the reallocation to security agencies.
Deputy Majority Leader and Quezon City 3rd District Rep. Franz Pumaren said the survey results showing that 57 percent of Filipinos agree with the confidential fund realignment is a "vindication for all of us" in the House of Representatives.
“As far as we are concerned, this is a crucial and very important gauge for us, and an affirmation that we did the right thing. More so, it also encourages us to continue on this righteous path in carrying out what is good for our fellow countrymen. We have the moral high ground,” he added.
Pumaren said this comes as a time wherein the chamber has been the object of criticism and threats from certain quarters due to the realignments made in the proposed 2024 national budget.
“As you know, we have been the political punching bag of some quarters, specifically Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez who did nothing bad, and who only did his job,” he said.
The Sept. 30 to Oct. 4 poll of 1,200 adult respondents nationwide showed that only 14 percent “disagreed” with the House's move to reallocate confidential funds of some civilian agencies to front-line agencies in charge of ensuring national security and protecting the country's territorial rights in the West Philippine Sea.
Of those who agreed, the highest percentage was in Balance Luzon at 75 percent, followed by the National Capital Region at 65 percent, Visayas at 46 percent, and the lowest was in Mindanao at 24 percent.
Among socio-economic groups, 72 percent of class ABC agreed (highest) while 54 percent of class E agreed (lowest).
Mindanao had the highest level of disagreement at 26 percent and Balance Luzon had the lowest at 10 percent.
Among socio-economic groups, 15 percent of class E disagreed (highest) while 8 percent of class ABC disagreed (lowest).
Occidental Mindoro Lone District Rep. Leody "Odie" Tarriela, meanwhile, said the OCTA survey strengthened the notion that the House of Representatives was on the right track.
"It fortified our belief that the House leadership did the right thing when it removed the confidential funds of some civilian agencies and transferred them to agencies that have a direct hand in protecting our interests in the West Philippine Sea (WPS)," Tarriela said.
"As lawmakers, we serve the people and are answerable to the people. With 57 percent of adult Filipinos agreeing with our move, it tells that we echoed the pulse of the majority. And that's what matters in the end, not rhetoric or propaganda," he added.
He said the House stands behind the Speaker's intention to protect the country's interests in the WPS and use the full resources of the government to do so.
"That is the patriotic way to handle our challenges at sea," he said.
House appropriations committee chairman and Ako Bicol Party-list Rep. Zaldy Co, meanwhile, welcomed the reported consensus among senators to remove confidential and intelligence funds from civilian agencies.
“This jibes with or is a vindication of the decision of the House of Representatives to realign those appropriations. With such consensus, we foresee a smooth bicameral conference on the 2024 budget,” he said.
Co said the reported agreement of senators to strip civilian agencies of CIFs would expedite the approval of next year’s spending program.
Co earlier said the Office of the Vice President, Department of Education, Department of Agriculture, Department of Information and Communications Technology, and the Department of Foreign Affairs will get "zero" confidential funds under the proposed spending plan for next year.
He said the PHP1.23 billion worth of confidential funds will be realigned to security agencies, particularly: PHP300 million will be reallocated to the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency; PHP100 million to the National Security Council; PHP200 million to the Philippine Coast Guard for intelligence activities and ammunition; and PHP381.3 million to the Department of Transportation for the development or expansion of Pag-asa Island Airport.
According to news reports, the senators’ consensus to deprive civilian offices of CIF appropriations was reached in a caucus early this week. (PNA)