THE SENATE president has filed a resolution to form an oversight panel that will investigate the utilization of confidential and intelligence funds (CIF) allocated under the proposed 2023 budget, after several former senators pushed for its activation.
“It has long been the practice of the Senate to constitute a Select Oversight Committee for confidential and intelligence funds,” Senate President Juan Miguel F. Zubiri said on Wednesday.
“Since the 10th Congress, the Senate has always formed the Select Oversight Committee, and we are going to continue that for the 19th Congress.”
The proposed General Appropriations Act (GAA) for next year contains P9.29 billion in CIF, with P4.33 allocated for confidential funds, and P4.96 for intelligence funds.
“It is our job, as an independent and democratic Senate, to keep watch over the use of the national budget,” the Senate chief said. “That is especially true for these sensitive funds, which are not subject to the usual auditing rules and procedures of the Commission on Audit.”
Mr. Zubiri said the committee will ensure checks and balances as the particulars of the CIF’s usage cannot be identified ahead of time.
“These funds are important in allowing our agencies to conduct necessary programs, operations, and activities for the safety and security of our people. But we need to be vigilant about how these funds are used, which will be the function of our Special Oversight Committee,” he added.
The proposed committee, headed by the senate president, will be composed of three members of the majority and one from the minority.
Former Senate president Vicente C. Sotto III in a statement early Wednesday said that “active oversight functions should be exercised.”
“The minority leader is member of all committees. The SP (Senate president) should encourage the oversight chairpersons to practice due diligence in guarding the people’s money,” he added.
Franklin M. Drilon, the minority leader in the previous Senate, said Congress can review and inquire on the utilization of the CIF in the exercise of its oversight function.
“This should be expressly required under the GAA, for emphasis, because this is an inherent power of Congress. Unless checked, the use of the CIF is open to abuse,” Mr. Drilon said in a statement on Wednesday.
“Moreover, the agencies entitled to CIF should be limited to those involved only in national security and peace and order,” he added.
Another former senator, Panfilo M. Lacson, Sr., in a statement on Wednesday said the committee can demand, if need be, the submission of pertinent documents of CIFs such as approved intelligence project proposals. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan