IN just 10 minutes, the proposed P8.2 billion budget of the Office of the President was approved by the Senate finance subcommittee led by President Duterte’s former aide, Sen. Christopher Lawrence Go.
Aside from Go, who presided over the hearing, also in attendance were two other neophyte allies of Duterte – Sens. Ronald dela Rosa and Francis Tolentino.
Go, in his opening statement, addressed reporters: “I will follow the check and balance in the government and siguraduhin n’yo na lang po na balanse ang inyong reporting (just make sure your reporting will be balanced).”
But the interpellation was not lengthy after Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea gave his presentation on the budget, which is 21 percent than the current P6.8 billion purse in the 2019 General Appropriations Act.
Lawmakers typically avoid questioning the budget of the OP and the Office of the Vice-President at the committee level as a matter of interdepartmental courtesy, opting to raise issues during deliberations in the plenary.
The proposed budget includes a proposed allocation of P4.5 billion for the President’s confidential and intelligence funds, which are not as open to ordinary scrutiny and auditing.
The intelligence funds for 2020 would be nearly double the current figure of P2.5 billion, already four times as large as the amount given to previous administrations.
Opposition Sen. Risa Hontiveros, in a press statement yesterday, said the intelligence funds should be realigned to government initiatives against the dengue epidemic and other pressing health and social concerns.
“If the president’s intelligence funds are being doubled to allegedly ‘secure the nation,’ then why not use that money to secure Filipinos from this real threat which endangers the health and lives of our people,” she said.