Lawmaker open to create oversight panel for confidential funds

Credit to Author: Delon Porcalla| Date: Tue, 26 Sep 2023 00:00:00 +0800

MANILA, Philippines — A key economist-official of the House of Representatives expressed openness to creating a “special oversight committee” to monitor billions of pesos allotted to government agencies in CIF or confidential and intelligence funds.

“I firmly believe that government coffers can be very well protected, and progress can also be ensured. This can only be achieved with a stronger push towards transparent governance,” said Marikina Rep. Stella Luz Quimbo, senior vice chair of the House appropriations committee.

“May I remind our colleagues that during the debate on the General Principles, I specifically mentioned the opportunity for Congress to increase transparency in the use of confidential and intelligence funds with a proposal to create a special oversight committee,” she said.

Under Quimbo’s proposal, three House majority members and one minority member will join the Speaker in the special oversight committee, whose primary task is ensure that the CIFs are used properly and judiciously.

“To elaborate, the special committee shall have the privilege of complete access to the reports submitted to COA-DBM (Commission on Audit-Department of Budget and Management) joint circular 2015-01,” Quimbo said.

She added that the joint circular, which governs the use of CIF in the annual General Appropriations Fund, could still be enhanced in relation to “remedial provisions” and “strict reportorial requirements.”

Veteran opposition legislator Edcel Lagman declared last week that Vice President Sara Duterte in effect bowed down to Congress’ power of the purse when she said she would defer to the “wisdom” of Congress about her request for confidential funds.

Quimbo conceded to the concurrent education secretary’s reported remarks, saying “I believe so, and rightfully so, Congress has power of the purse.”

“Requesting an agency who defers to the wisdom of the majority will really shift to Congress the final say of appropriation of the confidential and intelligence funds,” the Albay congressman, who also sits as president of the opposition Liberal Party, pointed out.

Lagman then made his proposal to make a provision in the General Appropriations Bill (HB 8980).

“We can provide special and general provision on utilization and reporting of CIF in the GAB. To make the utilization and reporting more transparent for purposes of holding agencies accountable,” Lagman said.

“I hope we can responsibly respond to the shifting, and we decide properly, legally and accurately the amount to be appropriated to requesting agencies and whether requesting agencies are entitled to CIF respective to mandates,” he said.

Quimbo acknowledged Lagman’s proposition. “I agree to better audit and increase transparency for these funds, but perhaps, what exactly and how to increase transparency needs to be talked about further,” she said.