Jul 302013
An election watchdog on Tuesday branded the P30-million intelligence fund given by Malacañang to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) the poll body’s version of the controversial pork barrel.

During a hearing at the Court of Appeals, the Automated Elections System (AES) Watch presented three checks issued to former Comelec Commissioner Gus Lagman to prove that government funds were used as “intelligence and confidential funds.”

Lagman said the first check, for P200,000, was issued to him in August 2011. The following month, he received another check, this time for P800,000. Finally, a P250,000 check was issued to him in December 2011.

Lagman, who is also a member of AES Watch, said the checks were described in the disbursement as “intelligence and confidential funds.” The former Comelec official said he deposited the checks in his accounts, thinking the funds were to be used for the poll body’s investigation into elections cases that the body was trying at the time.

But when he was asked by the poll body’s chief accountant to liquidate the amount on March 19, he found out that the money was made to appear to have been used for a different purpose.

“Para i-liquidate iyon, kailangan ko lang raw pirmahan iyong isang dokumento, isang one-page document na sinasabi na ginastos ko kung saan saan,” he said.

“Nakalagay sa dokumento, expenses for several items. Sabi ko di naman totoo ito, so isinauli ko na lang,” Lagman said. He said he could not remember what those “items” were but said the items were described in just one paragraph.

Lagman said the “intelligence fund” could be compared to Congress’ “pork barrel” or the Priority Development Assistance Fund, which has become infamous for being allegedly spent by some lawmakers for personal interests instead of using them for their congressional districts.

“Parang ganoon ang lumalabas na parang pork barrel din ito,” Lagman said.

Lawyer Harry Roque, counsel for the petitioners, supported Lagman’s suspicion.

“Kung hindi ito ginamit for surveillance at least magkakaroon ng linaw na iyong halagang bingay sa kanila. Kung hindi ginamit for surveillance or intel purposes ay baka pork barrel ng Comelec,” Roque said.

Lagman clarified that the checks given to him were part of some P10 million given to Comelec commissioners in 2011. He said the amount was still separate from the more recent P30 million “intelligence fund” given to the poll body for the 2013 polls.

Lagman stressed that intelligence funds should only be reserved for the military and police, and not for the Comelec.

During the CA hearing, Roque asked the high court to issue a subpoena against Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes and Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte.

The CA said it would later issue a resolution on Roque’s request.

The petitioners were accusing Brillantes of hinting that AES Watch members were under surveillance.

“Bakit sila matatakot kung wala silang ginawang masama? Talaga namang ginagamit ang intel fund sa mga nagsasabotahe ng election,” Brillantes was quoted as saying in the media.

The petitioners claimed that Valte also issued a similar statement, quoting her as having said: “The justification is supposed to be utilized for intelligence, counter intelligence activities and gathering of information relative to the activities of certain groups, individuals and technology experts suspected of conducting overt and covert operations to sabotage the results of the elections.”

The AES Watch is asking the Supreme Court to issue a writ of habeas data compelling the Comelec to reveal information it has gathered on AES members. — BM, GMA News

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