The confidential and intelligence funds (CIF) are a reincarnation of the pork barrel scam.
This more sinister iteration of the multibillion scam ushers the country into a vicious cycle: Inadequate accountability measures and fragile separation of powers created conditions for the inception of CIF, consequently worsening these very problems from which it emerged.
A decade has passed since the pork barrel scam was abolished after its exposition ignited widespread indignation. Lawmakers plundered around P10 billion for their local pet projects they did not even have to disclose in the final budget law that they themselves had passed.
The Supreme Court ruled pork barrels as unconstitutional, citing that lawmakers compromised their roles as independent monitors by interfering in the implementation of the budget they are only mandated to legislate. The unlawful fusion of Congress and Malacañang in spending the budget impaired mechanisms for accountability.
The specter of pork barrel began to manifest again under former President Rodrigo Duterte’s increased CIF. President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. continues this, proposing to allocate P10.14 billion CIF next year. And under a new name, the spirit of the pork barrel is resurrected with a vengeance through the bloated CIF.
The nature of CIF, secret and not subject to scrutiny by state auditors, robs citizens of their right to inquire and check where their taxes are being spent. The recent unconstitutional transfer of confidential funds from Marcos to Vice President Sara Duterte displays the perils of this scheme—public coffers treated as politicians’ personal funds, susceptible to swift transfers without the people’s knowledge.
These anomalies are permitted by a subservient Congress comprised of a supermajority allied with the administration hiding under “parliamentary courtesy.” After all, the CIF advances the allegiance between the Marcos-Duterte tandem and legislators. Yet even the UniTeam partnership rests on a fragile alliance. It is maintained by covertly pouring money for outright repression and favors for politicians, geared toward the realization of the duo’s pursuit of their family’s image sanitization and accountability evasion.
These motives are hidden under the pretense that CIF will be used for social services. For one, Duterte claims to use part of her CIF for educational assistance, but in doing so reduces the budget that could have gone to the departments directly responsible for these programs. The basic education sector faces a shortage of 159,000 classrooms, and state colleges and universities are slated to incur P6.2 billion budget cut. But because CIF can be distributed rapidly and selectively, she opts for this route to directly appeal to her cohorts’ voters.
This patron-client fidelity is a treachery to citizens stolen of their right to know how their hard-earned taxes are spent. The coalescence of the executive and legislative perverts the remainder of this country’s safeguards to prevent abuse of power. Under the CIF, politicians, in effect, avoid being accountable to their constituents.
Amid the prevailing connivance of Congress and Malacañang to execute these schemes, a stronger oversight of these two branches demands to be upheld. For one, state auditors must bolster transparency by revisiting the rules on the use of CIF and imposing stringent restrictions on the departments and amount of secrecy permitted for CIF.
Participatory budgeting principles must also be invigorated to drive the spread-out allocation of resources across different localities and prioritized sectors. By underscoring rigorous planning and public consultations, the legislature can dispense with the paradigm of getting the favor of those in the executive just to secure their constituents’ rightful share.
From the budget-crafting stage between Malacañang and Congress to the implementation phase as monitored by state auditors, transparency measures must be a paramount priority. It is a bare minimum the public is entitled to; it is a precondition for accountability. Only then can we start exorcising for good the corrupt phantom of the CIF. ●
Dec 2, 2023
Ang hirap pala kapag ako na ang nakatatanggap ng mga pangungumusta mo, ng mga kwento mo, ng mga ngiti mo.
Dec 2, 2023
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