DILG says P16-B barangay-based anti-insurgency fund not ‘pork barrel’ | Inquirer News

DILG says P16-B barangay-based anti-insurgency fund not ‘pork barrel’

/ 06:37 PM September 10, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año denied Thursday that the proposed P16 billion budget earmarked by the government for a barangay-based program of a counter-insurgency task force is a form of pork barrel.

During the hearing of the House committee on appropriations on the budget proposal of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) for 2021, Año was quizzed by Kabataan Partylist Rep. Sarah Elago over the said project of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

Año said that a total of 822 barangays (villages) in the country, which were affected by insurgencies due to the lack of social services and programs from the national government, will benefit from the program.

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“Itong mga barangays kung saan nagkaroon ng presensya ang mga New People’s Army at ito yung mga barangay na nakita natin na maraming kakulangang serbisyo mula 2016 hanggang 2019 kaya ito,” Año said.

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“Sa laban ng insurhensiya, hindi lang natin kailangang lupigin ang NPA kundi dapat sagutin din natin ang root of insurgency, which [is] ‘yung mga kakulangan na nakita natin na nae-exploit ng rating mga kalaban sa gobyerno,” he added.

Some of the projects included in the program are the construction of farm-to-market roads, barangay health centers, and school buildings, among others. The final list of specific projects per barangay will be submitted in October, said Año.

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This led Elago to question if this proposed budget counts as a “lump sum” since there is no final list yet despite its inclusion in the National Expenditure Program (NEP).

“Mayroon na tayong initial listing. Ito’y isinubmit sa Office of the President. Hindi natin ito masasabing lump sum sapagkat naka-itemize naman ito at fina-finalize lang namin,” Año said.

“Ito ay isa-submit sa Congress once makumpleto na po ang listahan ng specific projects. Hindi po tayo papayag na ila-lump sum ito, dapat ito naka-define ang bawat project para sigurado na pupunta ito sa tamang kinauukulan,” he added.

But Elago insisted that since the list is still a “work in progress”, it is still a lump sum under NEP for now.

Elago also questioned who will decide what projects will be included in the program, to which Año said the Office of the President will ultimately make the decision and approval.

“Lump sum at discretionary. Hindi po ba pork barrel ito? At dahil nasa discretion ito ng Pangulo, ito ay dagdag na pork sa Office of the President,” Elago asked.

Año disagreed, saying this is far from being a pork barrel.

“Malayong-malayo ito sa pork barrel sapagkat hindi ito discretionary. Ito ay specific na nagmula sa barangay ang pangangailangan at ito ay umakyat at na-identify na rin ang mga barangays kung saan dadalhin at nagkaroon na rin ng assessment process,” Año said.

Elago likewise raised concerns over the funds being used for the 2022 elections, saying that barangays are forced to follow the directives of the DILG to get funding.

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But Año also denied this, pointing out that the 822 barangays are not vote-rich barangays and that those communities are also isolated and far-flung areas.

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TAGS: NTF-ELCAC, Pork barrel

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