MANILA — Sen. Panfilo Lacson said Friday he would question President Rodrigo Duterte's confidential intelligence funds, which reached P4.5 billion for the year 2020 while requesting a slightly lower allocation for next year.
“[It is] still a bit too much,” he told ANC. “‘Pag sinabi mong (when you say) P4.5 billion a year under one entity, which is the Office of the President—which is not a big office—how do they spend that?”
On top of this, the President also has control over the intelligence funds of "the entire bureaucracy," including that of the defense department, the police, customs and internal revenue bureaus, and the National Security Agency, said Lacson.
Duterte also has a share from the funds of Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) and the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) that run up to “billions of pesos every year,” he added.
Asked about his fellow lawmakers' possible reluctance to slash the funds of Duterte's office, Lacson said, "Let’s see."
"I always say what I mean and I always mean what I say. In any budget deliberation, I really ask questions, I want things to be clarified, especially because this is our money," he said.
He also expressed concern over estimates that the national debt could balloon to P12 trillion due to the coronavirus pandemic. The debt is at about P9.16 trillion, up from P7.8 trillion in January, Lacson said.
"Where will this bring us? The next generations of Filipinos, you know, [could become] baon sa utang (buried in debt)," he said.
To further tighten the national purse strings, officials should cut their travel budget, said the senator.
"‘Pag hindi mo binago, hindi mo ini-cut ‘yong travel expenses ng government officials, saan sila pumupunta? E may lockdown nga tayo and nobody travels abroad," he said.
(If you don't change, cut the travel expenses, where could government officials go? We have a lockdown and nobody travels abroad.)