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Friday, May 24, 2024

Lawmakers see Senate upholding CIF realignments in 2024 budget

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Lawmakers in the House of Representatives expressed optimism that the Senate will uphold their decision to realign P1.23 billion in confidential funds from civilian agencies to those directly involved in security.

Ako-Bicol Rep. Elizaldy Co said this was the sentiment of legislators amid a news report that there was a consensus among the majority of 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,” said Co, chairperson of the House committee on appropriations.

He said this would expedite the approval of next year’s spending program.

The House earlier realigned CIFs of civilian offices, including P650 million from the Office of the Vice President and the Department of Education to agencies that deal with national security and protection of the country’s interests in the West Philippine Sea.

Deputy Majority Leader and Quezon City Rep. Franz Pumaren said the reported consensus in the Upper House was consistent with the dominant public opinion expressed in the recent OCTA Research survey.

The OCTA poll showed that 57 percent of adult Filipinos “agreed” with the House’s decision to reallocate CIFs.

Only 14 percent “disagreed” with the decision of the House leadership.

“The OCTA survey results are an affirmation that we did the right thing,” Pumaren said.

Occidental Mindoro Rep. Leody Tarriela said the OCTA survey results strengthened the belief that the House of Representatives was right when it decided to realign confidential funds under the proposed P5.768-trillion national budget for 2024.

“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 said.

As this developed, Senator Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday proposed to amend the special provision on the contingent fund in the national budget.

She said the provision provides for the augmentation of CIF from contingent funds “like what was done by the Office of the Vice President last year.”

“With respect to augmentation of the CIF from the contingent fund as was done last year for the OVP, we wish to propose an amendment to the current special provision of a contingency fund. Again, as a matter of fiscal prudence, we’d like to include the augmentation of the CIF as a prohibition under the contingent fund,” Hontiveros said.

The current text of the proposed budget earmarked P13 billion to cover the funding requirements of new or urgent activities or projects of national government agencies, GOCCs, and LGUs that need to be implemented or paid during the year.

Senate Finance committee chairperson Senator Sonny Angara said if the amendment being pushed is too broad, it may hamper the sum capital of security agencies.

“Perhaps there may be an exception to the exception. An exception to your proposal. Just in case there are emergencies because there have been occasions in the past where they found a need to supplement the security agencies, not just civilian agencies,” said Angara.

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