Human rights group Karapatan called for an independent investigation of the intelligence and confidential funds allocated for all government agencies, as it slammed the allocation of such funds for the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT). The rights group made the statement following the revelations of DICT Undersecretary Eliseo Rio, who resigned from his post on Monday, February 3, over anomalies on the use of the department’s confidential funds.

“The Duterte administration is desperate in further militarizing the civilian bureaucracy by allocating millions of confidential funds for intelligence and surveillance, even for agencies such as the DICT. The government is merely opening backdoors for corruption and the embezzlement of taxpayers’ money rather than properly allocating these funds for basic social services,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said.

Eliseo Rio Jr. BENJIE CASTRO FOR GMA NEWS

Rio resigned from his post citing anomalies in the disbursement of the DICT’s funds for “confidential, intelligence and extraordinary expenses” which he warned were not subject to regular audit. Under the 2019 national budget, PhP 400 million worth of confidential and intelligence funds have been allocated to the DICT. Cash advances from these funds amounting to PhP 300 million have been released to DICT Secretary Gringo Honasan toward the end of 2019, without the required notice of cash allotment from the Department of Budget and Management.

“Legitimate questions raised by the Commission on Audit deserve to be answered, as a top department official has already resigned over such anomalies. Where did this PhP 300 million actually go?” Palabay questioned.

On top of the president’s own confidential and intelligence funds worth PhP 4.5 billion, the confidential funds of the DICT doubled to PhP 803 million under this year’s national budget. Palabay asked further: “If Rio says that the DICT has no use for such funds since intelligence and surveillance work are outside the scope of the department’s mandate, then how come the DICT is receiving millions of pesos for activities that are outside the scope of its mandate in the first place? Why is the government funneling millions for the DICT to conduct intelligence and surveillance work? Is the government propping up the DITC to weaponize the country’s telecommunications system as part of the whole-of-nation approach of the government’s counterinsurgency program by having the DICT conduct draconian and illicit intelligence and surveillance against activists, critics, and dissenters?”

In the 2019 national budget, at least PhP 8.28 billion had been allocated for confidential and intelligence funds, almost half of which is with the Office of the President. The Karapatan official stated that “Rio’s revelation brings to light that millions and billions of the so-called confidential and intelligence funds are possibly being misused in widespread malversation to fund the Duterte regime’s counterinsurgency program and to fatten his allies’ pockets. The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict already has already been given a whopping PhP 36.439 billion budget for this year. While the people suffer due to budget cuts on healthcare and disaster response, the Duterte administration is funneling billions of pesos to fund its all-out war on the people.”

“Karapatan urges the Congress to conduct a probe on Rio’s revelations and for more officials to speak up against government anomalies and corruption. It has become evident that Duterte’s priority is war and murder, not the welfare of the Filipino people—and the people will take all necessary means to hold the fascist regime accountable for its negligence and crimes against the people,” she ended. ###

KARAPATAN
KARAPATAN is an alliance of human rights organizations and programs, human rights desks and committees of people’s organizations, and individual advocates committed to the defense and promotion of people’s rights and civil liberties. It monitors and documents cases of human rights violations, assists and defends victims and conducts education, training and campaign. Karapatan Public Information Desk: +639189790580 | publicinfo@karapatan.org