Majority of the Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) members concurred with the motion of P/Col. Bryant Demot, provincial director of the Philippine National Police in Negros Oriental, on the need to retain the P11 million intelligence gathering fund that the Sangguniang Panlalawigan had reduced to P1 million.
Philippine Army Col. Leonardo Peña, commander of the 302nd Infantry Brigade, reiterated the importance of the funds to address the insurgency problem in the province.
However, Board Member Erwin Macias, who is also a member of the PPOC, objected to the motion, explaining that the move of the SP to slash the budget is to give more funds to the health sector, especially public hospitals, amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Peña said the intelligence gathering fund can greatly help in the fight not only against the insurgency problem but also criminality and illegal drugs.
“We know that we still have remaining members of the CPP-NPA in my area of responsibility, running around, less than 300. But if these 300 will scatter all over the area of responsibility, in one barangay, maybe you will see four or five, but if they unite in groups of 20 or 30, meron silang gagawing hostilities,” he added.
“So with that, more people is needed to prevent them from doing violent activities against the government. It doesn’t mean that we will stop the information gathering because lumiit yung number of insurgents. Information gathering requires budget. Mahirap kumuha ng assets na iniutusan mo lang pero wala kang maibibigay para magamit nya,” Peña added.
However, Macias clarified that amid the pandemic, the SP is prioritizing the health sector and also decongesting the provincial hospital and improving its facilities, a government press release said.
He added that more than P1 million had been distributed each to the seven health centers to improve services in the primary hospitals in Bindoy, Bayawan City, Bais City, and Guihulngan City.
In a PPOC meeting earlier, Assistant Provincial Administrator Froilan Pinili said that under the Local Government Code, the confidential funds should not be more than three percent of the annual appropriations, or not more than 30 percent of the whole budget allocation for the peace and order program in the province.
For this year’s peace and order and public safety (POPS) plan, it has a total budget of more than P47 million.
Pinili said the intelligence funds cover programs and projects related to local security activities involving information gathering that have an impact on public safety.
He also cited Joint Circular 2015-02, or the guidelines on the entitlement, release, use reporting, and audit of confidential and/or intelligence funds, that stated that confidential funds shall be used only for the purchase of information necessary for the formulation and implementation of programs, activities, and projects relevant to national security and peace and order;
Rental of transport vehicles related to confidential activities, rentals and the incidental expenses related to the maintenance of safe-houses, purchase or rental of supplies, materials, and equipment for confidential operations that cannot be done through regular procedures without compromising the information gathering activity concerned, and payment of rewards to informers who are non-employees of concerned government agency, and many more in relation to confidential and undercover activities.*