Senate committee approves Defense budget, but could propose realignment of police intel funds to military

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By Mario M. Banzon

THE SENATE finance subcommittee approved the 2018 proposed budget of the Department of National Defense (DND) on Thursday, but senators raised doubts the agency would have enough funds for intelligence operations.

The subcommittee, chaired by Senator Panfilo M. Lacson, green-lighted the proposed budget of P195.476 billion, of which P144.679 billion would be the regular fund and only about P1.5 billion for intelligence.

Senator Antonio F. Trillanes IV pointed out that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) only has an increase in intel funds of P220 million for next year, less than half of the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) P500 million hike.

“Mas mabigat ang problema ngayon sa Mindanao and other security threats gaya nung sa West Philippine Sea kaya I believe na mas kailangan madagdagan ‘yung intel funds ng AFP (The problem in Mindanao and other security threats like the one in the West Philippine Sea are bigger, that’s why I believe that AFP should have additional intel funds),” Mr. Trillanes said in an interview with Senate reporters.

Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana, in an interview after the hearing, said the DND already has “something like P1.5 billion” for intelligence fund in 2018, including the P220 million increase.

“Yun na-approve na budget namin (That is what has been approved), so we have to live with it, so okay na ‘yun,” he said.

Mr. Lacson also found the AFP’s intelligence fund lacking.

“Hindi enough ‘yan. (That’s not enough) We really need to buy more intelligence information. Kulang talaga (It’s not sufficient),” he said in a separate interview after the deliberation.

Mr. Lacson advised Mr. Trillanes to bring the matter up to Senator Loren B. Legarda, chair of the committee on finance.

“After all, I’m not the one defending the budget of the DILG (Department of Interior and Local Government) family. Sa akin ang DND. So ako (me), I have no objection,” Mr. Lacson said.

The police is under the DILG.

He also pointed out that realignment of funds from the PNP to the AFP is subject to the approval of the plenary.

“It will be put into a motion kung pwede i-realign (if it is possible to realign) the P900 million, and if approved in the plenary, we will still have to deal with the bicameral (joint House of Representatives and Senate),” he explained.

In another matter, Mr. Trillanes also asked Mr. Lorenzana about a certain “rumor” concerning Mr. Trillanes himself. According to the rumor, which came from a forum of military academy graduates, Mr. Trillanes is recruiting men in preparation for a coup.

Mr. Lorenzana said that he has not heard of such rumors and denied that the DND is conducting any investigation on the matter.

Mr. Lorenzana added that there is nothing to worry about as there are no reports of destabilization plots.