Zarate asks COA to audit multi-billion peso budget of NTF-ELCAC
MANILA, Philippines — Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate has asked the Commission on Audit (COA) to look into the multi-billion peso budget of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).
In a letter to COA chairperson Michael Aguinaldo dated August 24, Zarate raised several questions—including legality concerns—regarding the budget given to NTF-ELCAC.
One of Zarate’s concerns was whether or not the initial funding of the NTF-ELCAC was lawful or in accordance with COA rules.
Under Section 9 of the Executive Order No. 7, which created the NTF-ELCAC, states: “The initial funding requirements of NTF-ELCAC shall be charged against existing appropriations of member-agencies of the Task Force and such other appropriate funding sources as the DBM (Department of Budget and Management) may identify, and when necessary, the Contingent Fund, subject to relevant laws, rules and regulations.”
Appropriations for succeeding year, meanwhile, shall be included in the budget proposal of the Office of the President (OP), the executive order states.
But Zarate said that under the Constitution, no money shall be paid out of the Treasury except in pursuance of an appropriation made by law.
“Is it legal that budget be taken from the [General Appropriations Act] for an entity created by the Executive that has not been appropriated fund by Congress?” Zarate asked COA.
Zarate likewise asked COA for an audit of the NTF-ELCAC expenditure for 2019.
Further, Zarate pointed out that the NTF-ELCAC itself “boasted that it is getting” P36.439 billion from the government for 2020 until 2021 following the approval of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Zarate cited the report of the state-run Philippine News Agency, which stated that around P20.150 billion of the budget will be used this year for cleared villages, while the remaining P16.288 billion will be appropriated next year for development projects.
“In the 2020 GAA, though, it is not easy to locate where the amounts in the preceding paragraph are under the respective departments, except for the P1.08 B fund under the PNP- DILG (Philippine National Police – Department of Interior and Local Government) appropriation for ELCAC,” Zarate said.
“The appropriation for the OP does not list any PAPs that clearly pertain to NTF-ELCAC,” the lawmaker added.
Thus, Zarate asked COA if it may be able to “identify and validate the existing appropriations from which such funding are or will be sourced and provide us with the information.”
“The NTF-ELCAC, being an Executive-created body, must be transparent and accountable to Congress and to the people for the public funds that they are given for their operations. It seems though that it is not the case,” Zarate said.
“In this situation, the Congress has the duty to ensure that public funds are paid for lawful purposes and that the public is aware where their money is being spent by the government,” he added.
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