By Sherrie Ann Torres, November 16, 2022; ABS-CBN News
MANILA (UPDATE) — The Senate will revive a committee that would exercise congressional oversight on confidential and intelligence funds.
On Wednesday, Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri filed a resolution seeking to form a “Select Oversight Committee” to investigate the government agencies’ utilization of their allocated confidential and intelligence funds.
“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.
The proposed committee will be composed of three members of the majority and one from the minority, and will be headed by the Senate President.
Senate Finance panel chair Sen. Sonny Angara earlier said they will revive the oversight body after the budget deliberations.
Discussions on the revival of the panel followed concerns from Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III and Sen. Risa Hontiveros on the P9.3-billion confidential and intelligence funds (CIF) for various agencies under President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s administration.
The minority bloc is questioning the confidential funds allocated to agencies that have nothing to do with intelligence, information or data gathering activities, like the Office of the President, Office of the Vice President and the Department of Education.
Under the proposed 2023 budget, P9,287,675,000 were marked as confidential and intelligence funds.
Former senator Panfilo Lacson said the Senate created the oversight committee in May 2017 through Resolution 361, with then senator Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan designated as the panel’s chairman.
Honasan had sponsored the resolution which cited threats to the country’s “national security, including disturbance to peace and order by lawless elements, and the importance of gathering intelligence information by concerned government agencies.”
The committee allows the Senate to “continue exercising its oversight functions over the use, disbursement and expenditures of confidential and intelligence funds granted to certain government agencies; and to provide vigilant legislative oversight over the conduct of these activities.”
Before its 2017 adoption, the oversight committee also existed in the 10th to 16th Congress.