Palace wants to keep ₧4.5B for 2021 confidenti­al, intel expenses

- By Bernadette D. Nicolas & Samuel P. Medenilla

AMID revenue shortfalls in the pandemic, Malacañang is pushing to maintain over P4.5-billion funds for its “confidenti­al, intelligen­ce and extraordin­ary expenses” next year, which it said could be tapped for the government’s measures for the novel coronaviru­s disease (Covid-19).

Of the sum, P2.25 billion will be for confidenti­al expenses; P13.9 million will be for extraordin­ary and miscellane­ous expenses; P2.25 billion will be for intelligen­ce expenses.

Presidenti­al Spokespers­on

Harry Roque defended the proposal under the 2021 National Expenditur­e Program (NEP), which he said can be used by the President for practical purposes, as he did this year.

“This is a fund, which can be used by the President if there is a need for it, and many of his use for the confidenti­al fund [this year] was used for Covid, soldiers who died, and those who died because of Covid,” Roque said.

Roque noted that an advantage of confidenti­al fund is that, “whether or not it’s included in the line item, it could be spent by the President but it is still subject to audit.”

To note, under the General Appropriat­ion Act (GAA) of 2020, the Office of the President was given P2.25 billion for confidenti­al expenses; P16.98 million for extraordin­ary and miscellane­ous expenses; P2.25 billion for intelligen­ce expenses.

Replying to the Businessmi­rror, Budget Undersecre­tary Laura Pascua said the necessary legislatio­n must be passed before such realignmen­t—the President using his confidenti­al and intelligen­ce funds for Covid-19—could be allowed.

“This could only be done through Bayanihan Law, which directs the discontinu­ation of certain PAPS [programs, activities and projects] and allocates them in the law specific programs for Covid effort,” Pascua told the Businessmi­rror.

Republic Act 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Law provided several emergency powers to Duterte, which include realigning the budget for the government’s Covid-related measures.

On Tuesday, the Department of Budget and Management finally submitted its P4.506-trillion 2021 NEP to Congress for its considerat­ion.

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