De Lima moves to lift secrecy on intel funds
Senator Leila M. De Lima is pushing for more transparency in the use government’s intelligence funds, particularly the billions of pesos allocated for the Duterte regime’s war on drugs and criminality.
“Throughout the years, this secrecy that surrounds the disbursement and utilization of intelligence and confidential funds has been used not only to protect intelligence activities, but also to hide abuses in the utilization of these funds,” De Lima said in her Senate Bill No. 377.
De Lima ited the P2.5 billion annual intelligence funds received by the Office of the President under the 2017, 2018 and 2019 General Appropriations Acts (GAA) for its intelligence and confidential activities in connection with its war on drugs and criminality.
“Because of the necessary secrecy in the use of funds, these amounts appear as lump sums in the annual GAA and are not subject to the stringent regular auditing requirements of the Commission on Audit (COA),” said De Lima.
“Kailangang mabusisi nating maigi kung ang bilyun-bilyong pondo mula sa kaban ng bayan ay nagagamit nang tama at hindi napupunta sa kung saan-saan lang,” added De Lima.
In her proposed measure, De Lima is seeking for the creation of Joint Congressional Intelligence Committee (JCIC), which will be tasked to monitor and oversee intelligence activities, which include the administration, financial management and expenditures of the intelligence agencies.
De Lima stressed the importance to maintain balance between maintaining confidentiality, upholding accountability and protecting civil liberties instead of undermining them.
“Intelligence funds must be properly utilized to prepare for the threats to
national security rather than for partisan or dubious activities of any government official,” De Lima stressed.
Under the measure, all entities of the Philippine government which conduct intelligence activities and receive intelligence funds must keep the JCIC fully informed of all its intelligence activities, including any significant anticipated intelligence activity and any significant intelligence failure.
If enacted into law, the measure will mandate concerned government offices to obtain a signed letter from the President, or from the respective head of the constitutional body in cases involving entities enjoying fiscal autonomy, specifically authorizing the proposed intelligence activity before any amount is disbursed and expended for the proposed intelligence activity.
In turn, the President or the respective head of the constitutional body are required to provide the JCIC a copy of the authorization letter within 72 hours.