Congress must have oversight powers over intelligence and confidential funds, Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said on Sunday.
He urged the House of Representatives leadership to fast-track House Bill 6261 or An Act Mandating the Oversight and Audit of Government Intelligence and Confidential Funds and for Other Purposes.
“With around P8.6 billion in confidential and intelligence funds (CIFs) which is among the highest in Philippine budget history, and the Commission on Audit admission of difficulty auditing the use of such funds, it becomes imperative now that Congress should exercise oversight powers over such gargantuan public funds,” Zarate said.
“CIF has become so large and its use remains hidden that abuse and misuse of the funds are ever present, more so under a tyrannical regime, and also now that elections are coming. Congress needs to assert its power over the purse and see if the funds it allocated were indeed used for its published purpose,” he added.
Zarate said it is high time that the government rectify “this highly anomalous mode of allocating intelligence and confidential funds that are free from audit, public scrutiny and official accountability.”
This developed as Vice President Leni Robredo decried on Sunday the prioritization of funds for the Department of Public Works and Highways, instead of the Department of Health, under the proposed 2022 national budget in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In her weekly radio program, Robredo mentioned that she agreed with generating more jobs under the Build Build Build program but questioned the timeliness of allocating more funds for public works during the pandemic.
Meanwhile, Robredo said: “For example, there was a huge increase in the budget of the DPWH. I could understand that the infrastructure program is important, but based on our situation right now, we need to control the pandemic.”
“But if cases are this high and you prioritize this, it’s wrong,” she added.
Public Works Secretary Mark Villar had yet to comment as of press time.
In the 2021 enacted national budget, the DPWH received P695.7 billion, which is higher than the DOH’s 2021 budget of P210.2 billion.
For fiscal year 2022, DOH proposed a budget of P242.22 billion. A huge chunk of this, or P78.83 billion, is allotted for COVID-19 initiatives and programs related to the Universal Health Care law.
The House of Representatives has yet to tackle the 2022 proposed national budget for DPWH, but in the National Expenditure Program for 2022, the DBM allocated P666 billion to public works.