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OP’s confi, intel funds ‘unchanged’

DESPITE the recommendation of Senate minority leader Aquilino Pimentel III that the Office of the President be stripped of its intelligence funds and its confidential funds reduced, these have remained “unchanged” in the bicameral conference committee tackling the P5.786 trillion budget for next year.

This was disclosed yesterday by Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara, Committee on Finance chairman and head of the Senate bicam contingent, as the Senate and House of Representatives kicked off discussions to iron out the differing provisions in the 2024 General Appropriations Bill at the Manila Golf and Country Club in Makati City.

“Well, it was not pushed hard enough. I think there were discussions but the OP said it needs the funds, especially nowadays that times are very uncertain. There is a war (between Israel and Hamas), there are lots of incidents of terrorism, hijacking, kidnapping.

But the good thing is that we did not increase it (CIFs)),” Angara said at the sidelines of the meeting.

The government has proposed a P10.707 budget for CIFs in 2024, with around P4.5 billion going to the OP – P2.250 million for CFs and P2.310 for intelligence funds.

During the second day of plenary debates for the 2024 proposed national budget, Pimentel manifested on the floor that President Marcos Jr. should review the amount being asked as confidential funds and that the OP’s intelligence funds be removed since it is not directly involved in national security and law enforcement.

He said the P2.25 billion being asked by the OP in CFs is too much as it contributes more to the country’s ballooning debt.

A total of 28 agencies have asked for CIFs in their respective budgets for next year, seven more than in 2016.

The Office of the Vice President has asked for a P500 million CF while the Department of Education, which is also headed by Vice President Sara Duterte, has eyed P150 million for its CF.

The House removed the CFs of the OVP and DepEd in its version of the budget measure.

Duterte, during the plenary debates of the proposed budget in the Senate, said her office would not pursue the CFs since “it seemed to be divisive.”

Angara said the Senate has adopted the House version of the