In a press release Monday (Nov. 21), Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri, said he has sponsored a resolution creating a “select oversight committee on confidential and intelligence funds.” Too late the hero. It’s like carrying a bucket of water to a house that has already burned down.
“These are not subject to the usual or regular auditing rules and procedures of the Commission on Audit, as compared to other expense items in the budget. So it falls on us, on this proudly democratic and independent Senate, to reactivate the Select Oversight Committee, where we can subject these confidential and intelligence funds to checks and balances,” Zubiri said.
Checks and balances? The Senate failed to exercise that function when it approved the 9.28 billion in confidential and intelligence funds without question like the House did. It didn’t even care to examine why the Department of Education, for instance, asked for such allocation. Or maybe I just didn’t know that school personnel have been trained in intelligence work.
And, even while mumbling about ensuring “that the funds are judiciously and rightly used,” thus the oversight committee which he chairs, Zubiri contradicted himself when he said “we need to be more trusting of our government agencies. We have to have faith that they would use every inch of diligence and discretion in undertaking surveillance and intelligence gathering in the discharge of their mandates.”
So, what’s the oversight committee for if you’re telling the public to trust the agencies that are recipients of these confidential and intelligence funds?
In Tagalog, what Zubiri is doing is “namamangka sa dalawang ilog” (paddling his banca on two rivers). With mainstream and social media awash with criticisms against the huge confidential and intelligence funds for the offices of the President and Vice President, he wishes to appease the people with the creation of the oversight committee. At the same time, he is sending a message to the two highest officials of the land that he remains their man.
A “proudly democratic and independent Senate”? Zubiri can’t be more hilarious. The Senate has long lost its luster as a counterweigh to Malacanang. For now, Senator Risa Hontiveros is the only real voice of dissent and reason in that chamber. The rest are content with wondering why Filipinos prefer K-dramas instead of local TV soap.(H. MARCOS C. MORDENO, Mindanews)