Wooing the barangays: Bato defends P16.4-B anti-insurgency fund, likens it to courtship | Inquirer News

Wooing the barangays: Bato defends P16.4-B anti-insurgency fund, likens it to courtship

/ 04:10 PM November 16, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — “Nakapanligaw ka na ba ng isang babaeng meron nang matagal na boyfriend na gusto mong agawin yung babae?”

(Have you courted a woman who already has a long-term boyfriend, but you want to snatch that woman away from him?)

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That was how Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa opened his interpellation at the Senate budget debates as he defended the P16.4-billion proposed allocation under the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) for the development of 822 barangays “cleared” of insurgency.

Dela Rosa said it took 50 years for state forces to “court” these barangays and clear them of insurgency.

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He warned that blocking funds for their development could prompt them to be engaged with the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, again.

“Fifty years…marami nang namatay na mga tauhan natin dito sa laban na ito. Mawawalan ng saysay kung tanggalin natin ang pondo na ito. This is the right time, kumbaga nasa tuktok na tayo. ‘Pag hindi tayo makarating sa tuktok, slide down tayo pabalik, the same problem will occur,” Dela Rosa, a former chief of the Philippine National Police, told his colleagues.

(Fifty years…a lot of our troops have died in this fight. This fight could be for naught if we remove this fund. This is the right time. It’s like we’re nearly at the top. If we don’t reach it, we will slide down. The same problem will occur.)

“Itong ating sitwasyon ngayon sa insurgency ay ihahalintulad ko ito sa panliligaw kung saan, itong 822 barangays na na-cleared na ngayon ng ating pwersang kasundaluhan at kapulisan ay 50 years in the making po ito na nililigawan ng ating mga kasundaluhan at kapulisan para mapunta yung sympatiya nila sa ating gobyerno,” he added.

(I can liken our situation now with insurgency with courting. These 822 barangays that were cleared by our military and police forces were 50 years in the making, our forces courted them to gain back their sympathy to the government.)

The P16.4-billion anti-insurgency fund, which is part of the NTF-ELCAC’s P19-billion proposed budget for 2021, has been controversial after some lawmakers questioned its allocation considering the need of the country to respond to more pressing problems like the COVID-19 pandemic.

While Dela Rosa understood his colleagues’ concerns, he argued that the funding would help end the country’s problem with the insurgency.

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The said fund will help develop the cleared barangays by building farm-to-market roads, establishing water and sanitary systems, and a school building, among others.

“Ngayon kung hindi natin ito ma-deliver itong pina-promise nating mga projects dun sa mga barangay, babalik at babalik yung mga tao, yung mga masa dun sa NPA,” he said.

(If we don’t deliver these projects that we promised these barangays, they will return to the NPA.)

“Napakaimportante po ang word of honor sa isang Filipino. [Kung] hindi magawa ng ating gobyerno dahil mawala itong pondo na ito. Anong sabihin ngayon ng mga taga-barangay? ‘Mabuti pa balik na lang tayo sa NPA…dahil nga nung panahon ng NPA, meron tayong natatanggap sa NPA. Wala kayong word of honor kaya babalik kami sa NPA’,” he added.

(Word of honor is essential to a Filipino. If the government fails to deliver its promises, what will the residents say? ‘It’s better to return to the NPA…because we were at least receiving something when we are in the NPA. You have no word of honor. That’s why we’ll go back to the NPA.)

Senate President Vicente Sotto III supported Dela Rosa’s argument.

Meanwhile, Senator Panfilo Lacson assured his colleagues that the P16.4-billion lodged under the NTF-ELCAC will not fall in the military’s hands but will instead be directly given to local government units.[ac]

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TAGS: 2021 budget, anti-insurgency, Nation, News, NTF-ELCAC, Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa
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