Phones, computers preferred tools of bank robbers – DOJ

Cecille Suerte Felipe - The Philippine Star
Phones, computers preferred tools of bank robbers � DOJ
File photo of a man holding a smartphone.
Philstar.com / Era Christ Baylon

MANILA, Philippines — In a country where 90 percent of crimes have cyber content and where robbers now use phones or computers to rob banks instead of guns, only P475,000 allocation for intelligence fund is being pushed for an office under the Department of Justice (DOJ) tasked with fighting the “new enemies” or cybercriminals.

Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla brought up the matter before the Senate finance subcommittee at yesterday’s hearing on the proposed 2024 budget for the DOJ and its attached agency the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).

During the hearing presided over by Sen. Sonny Angara, Remulla said he was pushing for additional budget to strengthen the cybercrime efforts of the DOJ and NBI.

Despite the magnitude of its cybercrime tasks, the DOJ’s Office of Cybercrime has intelligence funds of only P475,000 under the national expenditure program, Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito pointed out.

Saying cybercrime “is a daily problem that all Filipinos are encountering,” Ejercito asked Remulla what help can lawmakers offer to strengthen the cybercrime division of the NBI.

Remulla replied: “The NBI and DOJ cybercrime offices need help. In the DOJ, we are staffing the Cybercrime Division, (there are) only 20 people. If there are cybercrime prosecutors, specialized (on cybercrime), we will be needing at least 200 people for this.”

“What we really need is a lot of help in improving the capability of the NBI and DOJ cybercrime offices and cybercrime prosecutors. Whatever the Senate can give us will be of big help,” the DOJ chief said.

Angara said he wanted to make sure that the additional funds for the cybercrime divisions of both DOJ and NBI would not be a duplication of the funds for the same purpose being sought by the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT).

Remulla pointed out that DICT is tasked with handling the technical aspect of the fight against cybercrime while the DOJ and the NBI take care of the criminal investigation aspect.

Ejercito said the proposed P475,000 intelligence fund for the NBI Cybercrime Office is quite small, especially when compared to that of other civilian agencies not involved in fighting crimes or in security matters.

“Other departments, even those civilian in nature are asking for confidential and intelligence funds, but I guess, these are the agencies where we should put CIF. As I mentioned, these are the new enemies that we are facing right now,” he said.

“We still need something in terms of tools in the NBI so that we can keep up with criminals. Our computers must be as modern as those being used by cybercriminals. Right now it is not. Although they can coordinate with DICT it is good to have for that purpose,” he pointed out.

During his presentation, DOJ Assistant Secretary Eric Vida said that the 2024 budget for the DOJ and its attached agencies, under the National Expenditure Program, amounts to P34.486 billion, which is higher than the P26.607 billion for the current year.

Sen. Raffy Tulfo proposed to cut down the Department of Agriculture (DA)’s confidential fund amounting to P50 million and give some of the amount to the NBI, Philippine National Police, or the Bureau of Immigration.

“In my opinion, the DA does not need confidential funds,” Tulfo said.

Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra, meanwhile, told the Senate panel that he is willing to give up the CIF for his office amounting to P19 million. The SolGen is the fourth government agency to turn down CIF. The three others were the Department of Migrant Workers, Department of Foreign Affairs and the Office of the Ombudsman.

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