P1.64-billion anticommunist fund for Davao City questioned
MANILA, Philippines — An opposition lawmaker on Sunday questioned the P1.64 billion fund allocated to Davao City, the hometown of President Rodrigo Duterte, under the government’s P16.4 billion anticommunist fund.
Citing data from the Department of Budget and Management Local Budget Circular No. 135, Bayan Muna Rep. Ferdinand Gaite said the entire Davao region would receive a hefty P4.3 billion, with Davao City getting almost 40 percent of it, from the barangay development program (BDP) of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac).
“What’s the basis of this large allocation for Davao City? Was it the heartland of the communist insurgency? It’s hard to believe that there were communist guerrillas in the 82 barangays chosen by the NTF-Elcac,” Gaite said in a statement.
‘Generals’ pork barrel’
“It seems the Duterte camp has started oiling its electoral campaign machinery through the generals’ pork barrel lodged in the NTF-Elcac, and of course their bailiwick Davao, both city and region, gets the lion’s share,” he said.
“Bayan Muna will seek a special audit of these funds in due time. These are very large sums of money that we cannot afford to waste on potentially partisan political spending,” he added.
Gaite earlier expressed fear that the multibillion-peso funds would be used for the 2022 national elections.
Critics have labeled the BDP “generals’ pork barrel,” saying the NTF-Elcac would have almost complete autonomy for the allocation and disbursement of its multibillion-peso anti-insurgency funds.
The progressive lawmakers also criticized the NTF-Elcac, which has been falsely tagging them as communists.
Bayan Muna earlier expressed fears that the Red-tagging of progressive lawmakers endangered their lives, particularly with the passage of the terror law.
But National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. earlier said the P16.4 billion fund for the government’s anti-insurgency task force would be used to encourage economic development in remote areas where rebel groups used to settle.
“This is a social and economic program that will free up the countryside that are conflicted. We know that the economy will not take off in places where there is struggle,” Esperon said.
“Where there is poverty, where there is social problem, where people have demands that cannot be met, it is easier for them to be recruited by the New People’s Army. The Communist Party of the Philippines like to proclaim we lack in service,” he said.
Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr., spokesperson for the NTF-Elcac, earlier said the P16.4 billion fund in the 2021 budget would “end the communist insurgency” and “prevent the destruction of our youth.”
Some lawmakers and progressive groups had urged the government to realign the NTF-Elcac funds to the government’s COVID-19 response, but the bicameral conference committee had retained the controversial allocation in the 2021 national budget.
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