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Drilon urges audit of anti-Red funds

MANILA, Philippines — Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Thursday said he was banking on the Commission on Audit’s (COA) earlier statement that it was considering conducting a special audit of the government’s anti-insurgency funds under the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) because of serious concerns over how these had been disbursed.

“Given the various kinds of corruption that we’ve unearthed in the Senate, a COA special audit of all the funds that went to the government’s anti-insurgency program administered by the NTF-ELCAC is a welcome development,” Drilon said in a statement.

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The close scrutiny is needed even more because of the barangay development program, which he earlier warned could be used for the 2022 elections.

The NTF-ELCAC has a P19-billion budget for 2021, P16.4 billion of which would be for the barangay development program.

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Under this, villages that used to be rebel-infested would get P20 million that they could use for assistance to indigent individuals or families and various projects, such as farm-to-market roads, school buildings, water and sanitation systems, health stations, electrification, and agricultural, livelihood and technical vocational training.

Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado said if the villages could not handle the projects, the municipality or city government would be in charge of these.

Too much discretion

But Drilon said the NTF-ELCAC was given too much discretion over the funds, and added that the projects for the villages could be funded through implementing agencies instead of being handled by local government units.

He also said the setup involving the municipal or city government would complicate the process and make it hard to audit the funds and guard against abuses and corruption.

“The money going from one hand to another, we can expect what happens next. This is exactly the kind of setup that allows corruption to thrive. We must avoid this in the budget if we really want to enhance transparency and accountability on the use of funds. Let the agencies handle the projects and let them be accountable for the funds,” he said.

Meanwhile, Malacañang has vowed to strengthen the strategic bilateral cooperation between the Philippines and Japan under the leadership of its newly elected prime minister.

“The Duterte administration is ready to work with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga in further strengthening the strategic bilateral cooperation building on the special relationship established with former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said at a press briefing on Thursday.

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The Palace official said the Philippines considered Japan “a friend closer than a brother” and that it would pursue stronger ties with Tokyo under Suga’s leadership.

“We are committed to do everything to make these ties move from strength to greater strength,” Roque added.

Suga, formerly Japan’s chief Cabinet secretary, was elected on Wednesday after winning a poll in the Diet, Japan’s lower house.

This was after Abe announced his resignation last month due to health issues.

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TAGS: Commission On Audit (COA), counter-insurgency funds, NTF-ELCAC, Sen. Franklin Drilon
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