Drilon wants accounting of NTF-ELCAC’s budget
MANILA, Philippines — Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said he will ask the Senate leadership to compel the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) to submit a report on how its P19-billion budget was used, saying the funds could be used “in aid of the 2022 elections.”
Drilon pointed out that under the General Appropriations Act (GAA) of 2021, the task force is supposed to submit a quarterly report to the Senate and the House of Representatives on the utilization of its funds.
“I will request the Senate leadership to require NTC-ELCAC to submit the quarterly report,” Drilon said in an interview with One News.
“These are not small funds. Magagamit sa pulitika iyan (That can be used in politics),” he said.
Drilon noted that the 2021 GAA provides that implementing agencies and the NTF-ELCAC shall submit to the Office of the President, Department of Budget and Management, House of Representatives, and the Senate quarterly reports on the utilization of funds and accomplishments.
He said that while Congress cannot actually defund the task force this year, their budget can be realigned to augment the country’s budget for COVID-19 pandemic response.
According to Drilon, President Rodrigo Duterte does not need to seek authority from Congress to realign the anti-insurgency funds to pandemic response as there is a valid authorization provided in the 2021 GAA for the use of these funds to COVID-19 response and financial assistance.
“Insofar as the funding is concerned, the defunding cannot happen now. It can be defunded when we craft the 2022 budget. However, the President has the full authority to realign the funds. In fact, the present GAA includes as among the projects that fund would be COVID-19 vaccination,” the senator said.
“There is authority under the law to use these funds for vaccinations and for indigent individuals. If the President is minded to, he has the full authority under the law to realign these funds from 822 so-called cleared barangays to the much needed and urgent ayuda to residents affected in the NCR Plus areas,” he added.
Meanwhile, Drilon urged NTF-ELCAC spokesperson Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr., to resign from the task force amid constitutional questions over his appointment.
“A first-year law student will tell you a cardinal rule in the Constitution that those who are in the active military service are prohibited from occupying civilian positions. That violates the Constitution. He is illegally occupying his position as the task force’s spokesperson. It is one of thy disappointments. Hindi na pinapakinggan ang Senado,” Drilon said.
“Given the fact that his holding of his position is constitutionally doubtful, why doesn’t he step down to save everybody from agony?” he added.
Drilon also described as “disrespectful” Parlade’s remarks that senators would be “stupid” if they will defund the task force.
He noted that he has been objecting to the task force’s budget even in the past.
“It’s really disrespectful to say the least if Parlade said that we are stupid for passing this. In the Senate, I questioned this. I placed safeguards. It was accepted in the Senate. In the bicam, however, I am sure Malacañang lobbied that it came out the way it was written today,” said Drilon.
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