Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Friday quizzed newly appointed Optical Media Board (OMB) chairman Christian Natividad on the agency’s request for P5 million as confidential funds for 2021.
Natividad, former Malolos, Bulacan mayor, had just assumed his post yesterday (October 1) as OMB chief when he presented to the Senate finance subcommittee the agency’s P70.1-million proposed budget for next year.
In his inquiry, Drilon asked Natividad about the OMB’s mandate and raised their request for a P5-million confidential fund.
This was among the items thumbed down by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) from the P90.6 million initially proposed by the OMB for the government’s 2021 spending plan.
“Why do you need confidential funds?” Drilon asked.
In response, Natividad explained that the request was due to a 2010 memorandum from the Office of the President allotting five percent of the government’s sales from the Metro Manila Film Festival to the OMB.
He said it was understood that the funds shall be used for “intelligence collection” and to pay for assets, informants and other expenses needed to enforce their mandate against counterfeit optical media products. “We have quasijudicial functions,” he added.
Drilon, however, was not convinced and said the OMB could work with the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Phiilippine National Police (PNP) which have intelligence and cybercrime functions.
He said he was concerned as confidential funds were “all over the bureaucracy” and could “lead to very loose and lax disposition of public funds.”
“Every office in this bureaucracy would ask for confidential funds and intelligence funds because this is the easiest way to liquidate through a closed envelope system. You just write in a sheet of paper how you spent the confidential funds and that is already sufficient for the purposes of the Commission on Audit,” said Drilon, noting that there are over P4 billion worth of confidential and intelligence funds in the proposed 2021 national budget.
“That is why I am wary about these confidential funds,” he added.
“In this particular case, the DBM did not allow you to have confidential funds, they deleted this,” he continued.
Aside from the confidential funds, the DBM also did not approve the OMB’s request for P8 million for the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPEs) and swab testing; P3.4 million for the replacement of their two “obsolete” vehicles; and P4 million for their animated infomercials.
Natividad maintained that such augmentations are needed to support the 105 plantilla and job order personnel, as well as the 27 agents of the OMB.
Meanwhile, Senators Grace Poe, Joel Villanueva, Nancy Binay and Imee Marcos congratulated Natividad on his appointment to the OMB.