MANILA – The House of Representatives’ appropriations committee terminated on Monday the hearing for the proposed PHP8.238 billion 2021 budget of the Office of the President (OP) after almost two hours of deliberation.
During the budget briefing, opposition lawmakers have questioned the proposed intelligence and confidential funds amounting to PHP4.5 billion, which accounts for more than half of the total budget of President Rodrigo Duterte’s office for next year.
The OP’s 2021 budget deliberation took longer than the previous hearings in the past years, which usually lasted for less than 10 minutes without interpellation.
Deputy Executive Secretary for Internal Audit Alberto Bernardo said the President’s intelligence expenses are based on estimates of foreign and local situations for the formulation of national policies.
Bernardo stressed the need to improve cybersecurity amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has become a powerful driver for electronic transactions.
“Yung ating cybersecurity space na ating tinatawag ay kinakailangang tugunan natin, lalong higpitan na hindi makakapagsamantala ang mga sindikato doon sa kahinaan ng sistema habang mayroong krisis (Our cybersecurity space should be improved to prevent syndicates from abusing the weakness of the system during the crisis),” Bernardo said.
Bernardo said enhancing security, in general, is crucial during a health crisis, noting that terrorists are looking to take advantage of the Covid-19 situation.
“Mas mahalaga nga sa ganitong krisis sapagkat napatunayan natin kahit na mayroong pandemya ng Covid, mayroon pa rin tayong mga bombings na nangyari dito sa Sulu (This [intelligence funding] is even more important during this crisis because we have proven that even during the COVID pandemic, there are still bombings just like the incident in Sulu),” he said. “Maraming nagsasamantala na mga terorista sa kaguluhan dulot ng Covid na magsasamantala para patalsikin ang seguridad ng bansang ito. Kaya mas nangangailangan tayo ng proteksyon (A lot of terrorists are taking advantage of the havoc caused by Covid to undermine security in the country. That’s why we need protection).”
Former appropriations committee chair, Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab, moved to terminate panel discussions on the budget for the OP.
The approval of the motion means that the panel will endorse the proposed budget to the plenary for another round of deliberations. (PNA)