House defends restoration of confidential funds in 2023 budget

House defends restoration of confidential funds in 2023 budget

The House of Representatives jumped to the defense of the congressional bicameral committee over its restoration of the confidential funds of the Office of the Vice President, the Department of Education, and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict or NTF-ELCAC.

House Committee on Appropriations chairperson Elizaldy Co, a member of the bicameral panel, justified their decision to restore the P150 million in DepEd's confidential and intelligence funds, claiming that it was done to give the agency a strong foothold in guiding the future of children.

"That's the decision of the House, because it would be more difficult if our children are recruited and led to the wrong path. So we want the DepEd to spearhead, we want them to secure the future of our children," said Co.

The P150 million CIF for DepEd, which was chopped to P30 million by the Senate, drew opposition mostly from minority lawmakers, who said intelligence collection does not fall under the DepEd's mandate.

The House also restored the P10 billion budget of the anti-insurgency group NTF-ELCAC after it was reduced to P5 billion during the bicameral committee's first session.

Co explained that the NTF-ELCAC plays an "indispensable role" in ending insurgency and clearing barangays in rural areas of leftist influences and control.

"We agreed to restore the budget, but we instructed the agency to be more efficient. We want them to utilize the funds. We're thinking of other ways how to make it more efficient and more effective."

Aligning versions

The proposed P5.268 trillion national spending plan for next year also restored the P500 million confidential and intelligence funds under the OVP.

Earlier, senators had said they were more comfortable providing CIF to the office of the second highest elected position than to the DepEd, which Vice President Sara Duterte also heads.

The bicameral panel composed of Senate and House members convened on Monday morning at the Manila Golf and Country Club in Makati City to harmonize Congress' differing versions of the General Appropriations Bill or the President's proposed national spending plan for next year.

The budget restoration was announced right after the bicameral report's approval. Senator Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa thanked the committee for restoring the budget of the NTF-ELCAC.

"I would like to manifest, Mr. President, that on behalf of the people of the hinterlands who [have] just been liberated from the clutches of the New People's Army, thank you for that effort, to our good chairman," said Dela Rosa, who also serves as one of the vice chairpersons of the Senate Committee on Finance.

Dela Rosa explained that the NTF-ELCAC's funding would be utilized for the improvement of the 959 barangays removed from the influence of communist rebels.

Funded by the task force are farm-to-market roads, school buildings, water and sanitation systems, health stations, and electrification of the communities.

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