Makabayan bloc wants NTF-ELCAC’s P16.44B budget for 2020 removed
MANILA, Philippines — Makabayan solons have called for the removal of the P16.44 billion budget allocated for a anti-communist insurgency program amid their claims that it may be used as the President’s and military officials’ pork barrel.
According to Bayan Muna Rep. Eufemia Cullamat on Thursday, the budget — which government officials say will be used to clear barangays of communist rebels from the New People’s Army (NPA) — is only a pork barrel because it is not itemized as of now, and will rely on the discretion of officials like President Rodrigo Duterte himself.
Cullamat echoed the observations of Kabataan Rep. Sarah Elago who questioned Interior Secretary Eduardo Año about the budget for the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) during the House committee on appropriations hearing.
“Sinasabi na magkakaroon na 20 milyong pisong ‘reward’ ang mga barangay na magiging ‘NPA Free.’ Ano ang mga magiging basehan niyo para sabihing ‘cleared’ na ang isang barangay? ‘Pork barrel’ ang katangian ng pondong ito dahil hindi itemized,” Cullamat said.
(They are saying that there would be a P20 million reward for barangays that would be cleared from NPA. What is their basis to say that a barangay is cleared? This budget has characteristics of a pork barrel because it is not itemized.)
“Kahit noong wala pa ang sinasabing ‘reward money’ para sa mga barangay ay malala na ang sitwasyon ng ‘fake surrenders’ at ‘terror-tagging,’” she added, posing dangers on the possible misuse of funds.
(Even before there was no reward money for barangays, we already saw several incidents of ‘fake surrenders’ and ‘terror-tagging’.)
During the hearing, Año disagreed with Elago and insisted that the budget is not a pork, as the itemization of the projects would be sent soon, before Congress passes the budget.
“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.
During the hearing, Elago raised concerns that the funds might be used for the upcoming 2022 national elections, wherein barangays are inclined to follow the national government to get their allocations.
Año denied the allegations, saying that the barangays chosen for the anti-insurgency program are not vote rich barnagays.
The Makabayan bloc and the NTF-ELCAC have recently clashed over several issues, at the center of which is allegations of lawmakers being red-tagged — or accused of involvement with NPA and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)
Just this weekend, Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy urged the Makabayan lawmakers to remove their legislators’ title and admit that they are ranking officials of CPP-NPA.
Makabayan answered back by suspending deliberations on PCOO’s budget, questioning why the government employs an official that tags elected officials as terrorists. The solons later on urged Badoy to resign, but the latter insisted that she would not, because it is not her who has deceived Filipinos.
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