Solon urges transfer of P16-billion anti-communist funds to DSWD, DOLE
MANILA, Philippines — Deputy Speaker Bienvenido “Benny” Abante Jr. has urged the House of Representatives to reallocate the P16-billion barangay development program fund of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac) to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) for their respective programs for indigents and displaced workers.
In House Resolution No. 1726, Abante said the anticommunist task force appeared to focus mainly on publicly accusing officials, journalists, activists, lawyers, educators, celebrities and even private citizens of having links to the communist insurgency.
Despite warning from legislators, Abante said officials of the NTF-Elcac had continued to Red-tag individuals, even community pantry organizers, putting their lives at risk.
Abante said the NTF-Elcac’s continued Red-tagging of groups and individuals was inconsistent with its task of implementing a whole-of-nation approach to counter the communist insurgency.
With the task force’s “inability” to perform its mandate, he said the government should rechannel its funds and “prioritize efforts to provide financial assistance and other forms of support” to Filipinos in need.
In a separate resolution, the Makabayan bloc has also called for the House to investigate the P19-billion budget of the NTF-Elcac.
In House Resolution No. 1728 filed on Monday, the six lawmakers from Bayan Muna, Gabriela, ACT Teachers and Kabataan said they wanted to probe the questionable special allotment release orders (Saro) for the task force.
The NTF-Elcac was given a P19-billion budget in 2021, of which P16 billion was allocated for development projects in over 800 barangays supposedly freed of communist rebels.
The progressive lawmakers said the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) approved the release of Saros worth P9.659 billion from March 24 to April 23, for the implementation of priority projects of recipient local governments under the barangay development program of the NTF-Elcac.
‘Dabbling in politics’
But the Makabayan lawmakers said the project details of each Saro for the NTF-Elcac were inaccessible in the DBM website.
“No single centavo must be spent on a task force that has openly maligned and Red-tagged members of the House of Representatives, celebrities, ordinary citizens and even organizers of community pantries,” the resolution read.
The lawmakers reiterated their call to realign the P19-billion budget of the anticommunist task force for emergency cash aid for the poor.
As this developed, Sen. Panfilo Lacson said for “dabbling in politics” as a military official, Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. should be removed permanently as spokesperson for the controversial task force.
Lacson, the chair of the Senate’s national defense and security panel, said a gag order was not the appropriate response to Parlade’s statements after the latter, along with Communications Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy, drew public rebuke for their comments linking the organizers of community pantries to the communist movement.
Lacson said the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Department of National Defense should have heeded an earlier call by the Senate to fire Parlade from the NTF-Elcac, a civilian office that became notorious for “Red-tagging” government critics and activists.
“He should be censured for dabbling in politics instead of just focusing on his inherent mission as commanding general of the Southern Luzon Command—that is, to fight threats such as terrorism and insurgency,” the senator told reporters in a Viber message.
“In the first place, as an active member of the AFP, Parlade ‘cannot be appointed or designated in any capacity to a civilian position in the government,” he said.
—With a report from DJ Yap
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