Politics

Senator says presidential office’s intel funds should be reduced by P2.25 billion

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PRESIDENT Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. presides over the cabinet meeting at the Aguinaldo State Dining Room in Malacañang Palace, Manila on Tuesday, October 25, 2022. — REVOLI CORTEZ/PPA POOL

A SENATOR on Thursday said he would propose a cut in President Ferdinand R. Marcos’ confidential funds for next year and require reports for better transparency.

“In due time, I will propose an amendment to reduce the confidential and intelligence funds given to the Office of the President, but I expect to be defeated,” Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Martin D. Pimentel III said in plenary.

“Let us see the reaction of the Office of the President, if they’re open and will welcome such a move,” he added.

Mr. Pimentel said 65% of the operating expenses of the presidential office, which has proposed a budget of P8.98 billion for next year, are allotted to confidential and intelligence funds worth P4.5 billion.

“Why should the Office of the President be given intelligence funds of P2.25 billion when there are already existing intelligence agencies and units which can serve its intelligence needs?” he asked.

“The buck stops with him,” Senator Juan Edgardo M. Angara, who heads the finance committee, said in response. “If there is one person who needs access to good intelligence or information in the whole country, then I think there should be no argument that it is our president because he’s responsible.”

“Given we are an archipelago with 7,000 islands, with so many dialects, so many regional aggrupations, so many kingpins… who try to exert their will in their areas of jurisdiction or power, then the president, to maintain power, really has to have reliable information.”

Mr. Pimentel said the presidential office should give up P2.25 billion to other intelligence agencies.

“My concern is that we have to trust the government constitutional scheme or administrative setup,” Mr. Pimentel said. “We have practitioners, experts in that field who have been doing this for decades. Because my fear is with the P2.25 billion, you will make your own layer.” — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan