WHERE did the intelligence funds of former Cebu City mayor Tomas Osmeña go?
Osmeña asked the Commission on Audit (COA), through a letter dated Dec. 1, 2023, to release the total amount and particulars of the intelligence funds allocated and disbursed during his time as mayor.
Osmeña served as the mayor from 1988 to 1995, 2001 to 2011, and 2016 to 2019.
He also requested COA to provide information on the total amount of intelligence funds allocated and disbursed to former mayor Alvin Garcia, the late mayor Edgardo Labella, and incumbent Mayor Michael Rama.
This covers the years between 1995 and 2001, 2011 and 2016, and 2019 and the present, or the times he was not the mayor.
Osmeña, in a text message on Sunday, Dec. 17, said the abuse of intelligence funds is affecting the credibility of the government, including local government units (LGUs).
His move also stemmed from learning that Vice President Sara Duterte reportedly had confidential funds amounting to around P460 million a year when she was mayor of Davao City.
“I personally believe that many local executives use intel funds which do not have to be audited to ‘spread the butter’ to stay in power,” said Osmeña. “I would not be surprised if many thought this way about me having served many terms as mayor over 20 years,” he added.
He asked COA to release even privileged data, which includes who got and how much were disbursed from his intelligence funds.
SunStar Cebu asked if he could still recall how much was allocated for his intelligence funds during his time and how this was spent. But Osmeña said he also needs to be reminded, adding that he never paid much attention to the matter.
The former mayor said the information will then serve as his “terminal report to the Cebuanos.”
In his letter to COA, he wrote that access to information like intelligence funds is crucial to ensure transparency and accountability to the public.
He said he is seeking the information “in good faith, with the intention of maintaining the transparency, propriety and responsible management of public funds.”
In 2015, Joint Memorandum Circular (JMC) 2015-01 was issued by COA, the Department of Budget and Management, the Department of the Interior and Local Government, the Department of National Defense, and the Governance Commission for the GOCCs (government-owned or –controlled corporations) which prescribed “guidelines on the entitlement, release, use, reporting and audit of confidential and/or intelligence funds.”
According to the JMC, intelligence expenses refer to those related to intelligence information gathering activities of uniformed and military personnel and intelligence practitioners that have direct impact on national security.
Confidential fund “refers to the lump-sum amount provided as such in the General Appropriations Act for National Government Agencies, in appropriation ordinances for LGUs, and in the corporate operating budgets for GOCCs, for their confidential expenses.”
The JMC states that the amount allocated for the fund should not exceed 30 percent of the total annual amount allocated for the LGU’s peace and order programs.
The release and utilization of the fund shall be covered by a resolution duly approved by two-thirds of the total membership of the Local Peace and Order Council.
The JMC requires the confidential and intelligence funds of national government agencies, GOCCs and LGUs to be supported with a physical and financial plan, indicating the proposed amount allocated for each program, activity, and project, where disbursements pertaining to confidential expenses and intelligence expenses are based.