Protestant church leaders have urged the Philippines government “to seriously uphold transparency” over the controversial confidential funds of the top executive officials.
The National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) also encouraged authorities to allow the public to participate in the budget deliberation process.
“The people should also be given the right to participate in the process through their elected Representatives in the House,” the council said in a statement.
The Protestant leaders expressed their opposition to the confidential and intelligence funds allocated to the Office of the President and the Office of the Vice President, which they claimed “lack public transparency in their allocation and purpose”.
The confidential and intelligence funds requested by various government agencies, including the top executive officials, remain untouched in the proposed 2024 national budget.
Some P4.8 billion in confidential funds will be part of the P5.7 trillion national budget and will be released to various agencies without revisions despite several objections.
The office of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. sought P2.25 billion in confidential funds and P2.3 billion in intelligence funds.
Meanwhile, Vice President Sara Duterte asked for P500 million in confidential funds. In addition, Duterte has asked for P150 million in confidential funds for the education department that she heads.
Apart from the two top offices, there are 26 government offices that requested confidential funds.
“The NCCP contends that they are essentially a form of ‘pork barrel’ spending, leading to concerns about corruption and misuse of resources, as well as potential violations of human rights through state surveillance and persecution,” the council said.
The council said that instead of using the public money for confidential funds, the government must spend them to address the shortage of teachers and a backlog of 159,000 classrooms and 1.3 million armchairs in public schools.
The Protestant leaders called for “a reallocation of these excessive confidential and intelligence funds” to essential programs such as health and education.
“The National Budget should effectively respond to the needs of the people, most especially those of the impoverished and most vulnerable sectors,” the statement read.