, September 28, 2005
(STAR) By Jess Diaz - President Arroyo is keeping P650 million in annual confidential and intelligence funds despite pronouncements that the government is adopting austerity measures to bring the budget deficit down.

In the 2006 budget proposal she submitted to the House of Representatives and the Senate, the President has set aside the amount for next year’s huge intelligence budget that is still slightly lower than this year’s P664.8 million. Similarly large amounts were contained in previous years’ outlays.

The House appropriations committee has begun scrutinizing the proposed P1-trillion budget for next year.

Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya, committee chairman, said 27 government corporations are projected to lose a total of P73.6 billion, wiping out the P52.8 billion in profits expected to be earned by other state firms.

He said taxpayers would be forced to bail out the losing corporations through budgetary subsidies in the amount of P12.8 billion, of which P8.3 billion would go to the National Food Authority.

Of the P650 million available to the President next year, P500 million is appropriated under the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PACC), chaired by Mrs. Arroyo.

Actually, the commission has a budget of P532,667,000, "including P500 million for confidential and intelligence expenses to be released upon approval of the President."

The balance of more than P32 million is presumably for staff salaries and maintenance and operating expenses of the PACC.

The PACC is the same commission that Mrs. Arroyo inherited from ousted President Joseph Estrada in 2001 and which she had promised but inexplicably failed to disband. What she succeeded in disbanding was the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force, PACC’s operating arm. During Estrada’s time, the task force was headed by then Philippine National Police chief and now opposition Sen. Panfilo Lacson.

Aside from P500 million available to her as PACC head, the President has an additional P150 million at her disposal.

This second amount is included in the heading, "general administration and support services," for which a total of P1.1 billion is appropriated.

The description of the P150 million item is the same as that for the P500 million under PACC. It would be "for confidential and intelligence expenses to be released upon approval of the President."

Intelligence funds are not subject to detailed audit. All the accountable officer submits to government auditors is a general description of the confidential or intelligence project and the amount used.

Vice President Noli de Castro would have his own share of confidential funds: a minuscule P6 million compared to the huge sums available to the President.

This year, De Castro has P6,590,000 in intelligence outlay. He will thus suffer a reduction of P590,000.

Other agencies with intelligence budgets are the Philippine National Police, P270 million; the office of Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez, P95 million; Bureau of Immigration, P8 million; National Bureau of Investigation, P18 million; office of Defense Secretary Avelino Cruz, P33 million; chief of staff of the Armed Forces, P33.6 million; Air Force, P6 million; Army, P24 million; Navy, P14.9 million; National Security Council, P1 million; National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, P33.2 million; Department of Finance, P11.5 million; Department of Environment and Natural Resources, P5 million; and Department of Energy, P2 million.

However, the total amount of confidential and intelligence funds to be used by state agencies will go down from P1.8 billion this year to P1.3 billion in 2006.

As for local and foreign trips, government officials and personnel will have more taxpayers’ money to spend next year. The travel budget will go up by more than P200 million, from P4.431 billion this year to P4.633 billion.

Funds for "supplies and materials" will increase by more than P2 billion, from P20.727 billion this year to P20.968 billion in 2006.

"Communication expenses" will go up from P1.887 billion to P2.021 billion, while "advertising expenses" will leap by nearly P300 million, from P345.3 million this year to P625.4 million next year.

Money for "repair and maintenance" will jump by nearly P600 million, from P12.4 billion this year to P13.010 billion in 2006.

The top losers among government firms are the National Power Corp., which is projected to lose P42.2 billion; National Food Authority, P22 billion; Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp., P4.2 billion; Philippine National Railways, P1.1 billion; and Home Guaranty Corp., P960 million.

The top gainers are the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp., P15.1 billion; National Transmission Corp., P14.9 billion: Home Development Mutual Fund, P9.2 billion; Development Bank of the Philippines, P3.4 billion; and Land Bank, P2.9 billion.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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