Zubiri seeks revival of Senate panel probing confidential, intel funds

Xave Gregorio - Philstar.com
Zubiri seeks revival of Senate panel probing confidential, intel funds
Senate President Migz Zubiri presides over the Senate plenary budget debates.
Joseph Vidal / Senate PRIB

MANILA, Philippines — Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri is pushing for the revival of a Senate panel that will investigate the use of confidential and intelligence funds of government agencies.

Zubiri filed Wednesday a resolution that seeks to create a Select Oversight Committee on Intelligence and Confidential Funds after former Senate President Franklin Drilon and former Sen. Panfilo Lacson called on the Senate to reactivate the panel.

“It is our job, as an independent and democratic Senate, to keep watch over the use of the national budget. That is especially true for these sensitive funds, which are not subject to the usual auditing rules and procedures of the Commission on Audit,” Zubiri said in a statement.

“Being that we cannot identify the particulars of their usage ahead of time, the Committee is our way of subjecting these funds to checks and balances,” he added.

Since the 10th Congress, the Senate has been convening the select committee on confidential and intelligence funds.

There is nearly P9.3 billion in confidential and intelligence funds in the proposed 2023 budget, close to half of it — or P4.5 billion — is lodged in the office of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

Zubiri said there is a need to be vigilant about the use of these funds, but underscored that they are “important in allowing our agencies to conduct necessary programs, operations, and activities for the safety and security of our people.”

Confidential and intelligence funds have come under scrutiny at the Senate, led by Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III, who has waged a crusade against these hard to audit lump sum allocations during plenary debates and has vowed to realign these funds to “more important” line items.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: Confidential, intel funds in the national budget

Senate Deputy Minority Leader Risa Hontiveros said their quest to slash confidential and intelligence funds continues, but acknowledged this would be difficult in the face of a supermajority in the chamber.

“I think the contest is still on an uphill battle, but the contest is still on,” Hontiveros told ANC’s “Dateline Philippines.”

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