Virador: scrap ‘intel’ funds; Recto to ‘intel’ bodies: prove you deserve your budget

Earlier, on May 29, Senator Rafael Recto challenged eight intelligence agencies with P1.8 billion in combined operating funds this year, to get their acts together to “identify and neutralize the death squads gunning down leftist activitists.”

In a press statement, Recto said getting the killers of Bayan Muna members “is also a way by which these intelligence bodies can prove that they deserve every peso of their sizeable allocation this year."

"Find the killers and the taxpayers will say that they're getting their money's worth from`intel' groups," he said.

Virador said it would be “most appropriate” to start scrapping the P650 million intelligence fund embedded in the Office of the President’s budget this year.

He said the COIN funds, amounting to P1.25 billion “are exempted from official audit and are hidden in various items of the national budget.” Virador’s press statement, however, did not include a list of the agencies and the amounts allocated. Recto’s press statement itemized the budget allocations.

Recto noted that under the proposed P1.05 trillion 2006 national budget, the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission tops the list of recipients with a proposed budget of P532.6 million, of which P500 million is clearly specified in the budget for "confidential and intelligence expenses" that will be released "upon approval of the President.”

The National Intelligence Coordinating Agency’s proposed budget is P259.1 million next year and the National Security Council, P54.3 million.

The Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines has a proposed budget of P264.6 million, tucked in the AFP's P45 billion proposed 2006 budget.

Recto said Army intelligence has a proposed budget of P110.2 million; Naval intelligence, P176.5 million; and Air Force intelligence, P56.4 million.

The Philippine National Police intelligence group’s proposed budget is P376.5 million, he said.

Virador said all COIN funds from the offices of the President, the Cabinet Oversight Committee on Internal Security, National Security Council, Departments of National Defense, Justice and all line agencies “must be scrapped.”

“We fear that this year’s allotment will again be used to conduct surveillance operations on progressive organizations and personages, ultimately resulting to their murders.  All COIN fund allocations should be scrapped and instead be devoted to direct social services such as education and health,” he said.

Virador said Malacanang and the armed forces “cannot simply invoke national security to prevent he scrapping of the COIN funds.”
“The present trend of political killings is already a serious public security concern.  Despite the billions of COIN funds made available since 2001, these have not contributed to maintaining peace or even arresting the violence.  Unless, of course, these funds were used to sponsor such violence, which we strongly believe is the case,” he said.  

He said the murderers behind these political killings “can only operate if they get a hefty budget from sources that are immune to audit and congressional scrutiny.”

Virador said human rights organizations have documented 606 civilian activists killed since Gloria  Macapagal-Arroyo assumed office in 2001. Sotero Llamas’ ecent murder in Albay has brought to 97 the number of Bayan Muna members killed.

Last Thursday evening (June 1), the Senate, voting 17-0 with no abstention, passed on third and final reading the national budget for 2006 amounting to P1.027 trillion, P26.3 billion lower than the House-approved P1.053 trillion.

he bicameral conference committee will meet on Monday (June 5) to consolidate the Senate and House versions of the 2006 national budget. (MindaNews)