MANILA – The proposed budgets of the Office of the President (OP) and the Presidential Management Staff (PMS) for 2024 were successfully defended by its sponsor Senator Sonny Angara in the plenary on Thursday, including the OP's PHP2.3 billion intelligence funds.
During the plenary debates, Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri cited the OP's "very detailed" report on how it spends its intelligence funds, which is submitted to both the Office of the Senate President and Office of the Speaker of the House.
"I just want to put into record that the CIF of the OP is one of the most detailed and comprehensive reports that I have seen. It is the most detailed among all the other agencies. It was about two books detailing each and every disbursement and the nice thing about it is it's a complete report wherein the fund of this amount was disbursed to for example, tipster for anti-drug program which led to an apprehension and filing of a case," Zubiri said.
In the early part of the plenary debates, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III asked Angara why the OP is requesting an intelligence fund when it is not a uniformed or military agency or an intelligence practitioner.
Quoting an earlier statement of Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin, Angara stated that the President is both "user and generator" of confidential intelligence information and as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, needs to make very crucial decisions.
Pimentel said he has no problem with the grant of confidential funds to the OP even if it is a civilian office noting that under a joint circular on the entitlement, release, use, reporting, and audit of confidential and intelligence funds, confidential expenses are expenses related to surveillance activities in civilian government agencies that are intended to support the mandate or operations of the agency.
“I have no issue with a grant of confidential funds to the Office of the President, a civilian government agency with multi-dimensional, multi-faceted operations, responsibilities, and tasks. I have no problem with the concept of granting," Pimentel said.
The total proposed 2024 budget of the OP is PHP10.6 billion while the PMS is at PHP812 million which was also approved in the plenary deliberation. (PNA)