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The Shameless Practice of ‘Confidential Funds’

EDITOR THINKS

In the convoluted world of Philippine politics, there exists a sinister practice that has persisted for far too long, one that undermines the very essence of transparency in government spending. We're talking about the controversial 'confidential funds'—a term that seems to have been coined in the Philippines and has unfortunately found itself as a cornerstone in the playbook of plunderers, hiding from the prying eyes of audits and conveniently escaping accountability.


The topic of 'confidential funds' is a sizzling one these days, but the concept isn't new. It has its roots deeply embedded in recent Philippine history. It's a practice that started as a reactionary measure to address specific security concerns. However, over time, it has morphed into something more sinister, something that is far from its initial, purported purpose.


The practice of ‘confidential funds' was pioneered by none other than Ferdinand Marcos Sr. during his oppressive regime. Under the guise of national security, the dictator established a system that allowed him to funnel vast sums of money into off-the-record accounts, shielded from any form of scrutiny. The rationale was simple yet sinister: claim that these funds were necessary for state security, and then transfer these monies to private bank accounts with no questions asked.


Here's the problem: the practice of 'confidential funds' not only persists, but has escalated into an alarming trend. It continues to the next generation of Marcos, with Junior now sitting as President. And this time, its scope is no longer limited to the usual 'national security' alibi, but has grown into an edacious monster that devours public funds using myriad excuses, leaving a trail of disdain for the very citizens the funds are supposed to serve. The reasons used to justify the use of confidential funds have become flimsier with each passing year, yet those in power remain adamant in defending it.


Proponents of the practice maintain that confidential funds are necessary for swift operations, and that secrecy is required for certain fund disbursements in order to protect the nation's interests. While there may be genuine security concerns, vague justifications are often used to shield an array of dubious activities. What was once intended to protect the country and to serve citizens more efficiently has turned into a haven for plunderers who, by the practice, could rob the people blind almost effortlessly and without fear of reprisal.


The damage caused by this trend is evident in the dilapidated state of our public services, crumbling infrastructure, and the constant struggle of the common citizens to make ends meet. As these unaccounted billions disappear into the darkness of confidential funds, the rest of the country pays the price for this grave injustice.

The tradition of ‘confidential funds’ has become like an old trick of magicians in government, where the tricksters drop a hat on a bundle of cash, make it disappear, and then forbid everybody from asking ‘Where did it go?’. It unmistakably implies permission for corrupt bureaucrats to say: “Now you see it (cash), now you don’t. Now you shut up, and just clap.”


It's high time we recognize the unconstitutionality of 'confidential funds' in the Philippine government. The Constitution mandates transparency and accountability in using public funds, principles violated by the clandestine practice. ‘Confidential funds’ are, in essence, secret funds, and, as such, are susceptible to exploitation by corrupt government officials. As in the past, this bad practice makes it easy for plunderers to transfer money from the public coffers straight to their private bank accounts while, in turn, makes it very, very difficult to trace. With its expanding use in the yearly estimation of the national budget, trillions of pesos might soon be appropriated as secret funds and lost to unauditable disbursements.


This is why we must categorically declare this practice as illegal and demand its immediate cessation, unless, of course, Philippine society has become one that caters to the whims of plunderers, and thus wish to normalize and legalize corruption. The last time I checked, though, corruption is still a crime.


Furthermore, past allocations of 'confidential funds' must not escape scrutiny. An audit of these funds, tracing their use, and holding to account any malversation, is our right and our duty as citizens. We cannot continue to allow our money to be siphoned off into the pockets of corrupt officials under the guise of national security...and simply cast the memory of these funds to oblivion. The very system of 'confidential funds' practically institutionalizes corruption and legalizes plunder. It's a blatant scam. And may damnation fall upon all those who devised this scheme and, even now, advocate it, as if we could afford to be remiss with the trillions of pesos that we borrow yearly.


When shamelessness in governance gets to the point where we’re at now, it’s already an “all-bets-are-off” situation. What's to stop citizens from also deeming their incomes confidential 'for the sake of personal security' from the menace of taxation? Fairness? Honesty? Integrity?


If the Philippine government cannot uphold transparency within its ranks, it has no business demanding it from the public. If it exempts itself from accountability, it cannot impose an opposite rule upon the citizenry. It will lack the moral ascendancy to do so. And if it continues to bow down to the will of kleptocrats, it cannot be a democracy. Plunderers are certainly not the majority here.



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