By Alex P. Vidal
“The greater the power, the more dangerous the abuse.”—Edmund Burke
IF the late Iloilo Senator, Dr. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, were alive today, the furor over the abusive and brazen requests by the country’s second highest elected official for the sordid and astronomical “confidential” and “intelligence” funds or CIF, would have been “settled” right away.
The bombastic Ilongga former jurist, one of the best presidents the Philippines never had, would have flatly told the requestor on her face in the budget committee hearing: “No way!”
“No way” because No. 1 it’s unconstitutional and Defensor-Santiago, a constitutional genius, would only allow anything that go against the charter “over my dead body.”
“No way” because the requests seemed to be immoral and bereft of logic and common sense (since when did the education department dabble in deep intelligence gathering that would warrant a budget of multi-million pesos?)
But it appears no one from among the present set of opposition firebrands in congress can halt Vice President Sara Duterte-Carpio’s temerity to collect atrocious CIF for the Office of the Vice President (OVP) and the Department of Education (DepEd) where she is the secretary.
The P125 million “confidential” fund for DepEd and the P500 million “intelligence” fund for OVP sought by Mrs. Duterte-Carpio have been approved despite the cavil of Senators Riza Hontiveros and Koko Pimentel, two known opposition legislators.
The vice president is lucky the hard-hitting Iloilo lady senator was no longer around when she tried to justify the request for the mind-boggling largesse at the expense of the taxpayers.
At the onset, it would seem like Hontiveros and Pimental were hellbent to neatly eviscerate Mrs. Duterte-Carpio’s highly suspicious and scandalous funding requests with their stunning questions and presentation of facts.
Hontiveros boomed: “There is no good reason why the Office of the Vice President should have confidential fund allocations that are larger than the combined confidential budgets of our top security agencies.”
The OVP’s proposed P500-million CIF—which has less auditing and reporting requirements than regular public funds—”tower over” the combined P438.2 million in confidential and intelligence funds allocated for the Department of National Defense and the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA), Hontiveros further averred.
The lady senator warned, “There is something fundamentally wrong when the OVP alone has a confidential fund of half a billion pesos while the NICA itself, which is the government’s primary intelligence arm, has confidential and intelligence funds of only P341.2 million.”
For his part, Pimental argued that while Mrs. Duterte-Carpio already manifested that her office could live without a P500-million CIF, the OVP still included it in its proposal to the Department of Budget and Management.
“When you look at the Constitution and any other law, what legal basis led us to include it in the proposed budget … that P500 million confidential fund?” Pimentel asked the daughter of former President Rodrigo Duterte.
Pimentel questioned the government’s understanding of the plight and commitment to serve ordinary Filipinos in allocating an increase in confidential and intelligence funds in the proposed P5.768-trillion budget for 2024 in a statement on August 5.
He explained: “The allocation of P9.2 billion to confidential and intelligence funds while our fellow Filipinos in calamity-stricken areas suffer raises serious questions about the government’s understanding of the real needs and challenges faced by our country.”
But, still the same, the CIF requested by the “spoiled brat” had been approved.
It perfectly confirmed the widespread belief that “what Inday Sara wants Inday Sara gets” even if her father is no longer in power. After all, she is being penciled for president in 2028 against an opposition perceived to be enfeeble and inutile.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two daily newspapers in Iloilo.—Ed)