PNP used only 12% of anti-insurgency funds – COA
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine National Police spent only P86.568 million of its P722.95-million share of funding as a member agency of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac) in 2020.
Amid calls to defund the anti-insurgency task force, state auditors learned that the PNP was able to use only around 12 percent of the substantial amount it had received.
The police force was allocated P1.084 billion in NTF-Elcac funds from the 2020 national budget and got P722.955 million from the Department of Budget and Management that year, according to a July 8 Commission on Audit (COA) report.
The COA noted that of the nearly P723 million that was released to the PNP, only 33 percent, or P240,802,722.97, was obligated by the national headquarters and its police regional offices, leaving an unobligated balance of about P482.2 million.
But of the obligated amount, only P86,568,860.17, or 35.95 percent, was utilized for “various procurements.”
This left a balance of P154,233,862.80 unpaid disbursements as of Dec. 31, 2020.
Obligated funds are those committed for the immediate or eventual payment of an agency’s expenditures, which had been authorized under the national budget law.
The COA did not say why a large portion of the 2020 NTF-Elcac funding for the PNP was unobligated and an even larger amount of the allocated funds was unspent.
PNP officials did not immediately respond to the Inquirer’s request for comment on the COA report.
This year, Congress approved a P19.2-billion budget for the task force, the bulk of which, amounting to about P16 billion, was to be spent for developing around 800 barangays that had been “freed” from communist rebel influence.
Some lawmakers have called for defunding the NTF-Elcac, saying it was involved in baseless red-tagging of progressive solons, journalists, and celebrities, and this has resulted in deadly attacks against political activists.
In its audit report, the COA said “no significant observations” were noted in the utilization of funds by the PNP national headquarters and 15 of the 17 police regional offices.
It said the Bicol police regional office procured P6.667 million worth of “goods through shopping,” which were not supported with the required documents.
The COA said the regional police office of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) was unable to obligate its P40-million NTF-Elcac funds “due to nonpreparation of project activities or estimated expenses indicating the project objective and expected output.”
The BARMM police office blamed “time constraint and the late release of funds” for its failure to prepare the requirements.
The biggest chunk of the funds amounting to P66.666 million went to the PNP national headquarters.
However, it only obligated P8.037 million, or 12 percent of its allocation, leaving an unused balance of P58.628 million.
Of the 17 PNP regional offices, Calabarzon got the highest amount at P41.333 million but only P8.073 million, or 19 percent, was obligated.
Last March, the police and military carried out a series of bloody raids in that region, killing nine political activists with suspected links to communist rebels after they allegedly fought against the law enforcers who were serving warrants.
The regional police offices in Ilocos, Central Luzon, Bicol, Western Visayas, Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Zamboanga Peninsula, Northern Mindanao, Davao, Soccsksargen, and Caraga each got P40 million in NTF-Elcac funds.
The National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) got P36.667 million while the Cordillera regional office received P33.333 million, the smallest amount.
Only the Ilocos, Western Visayas, Soccsksargen, and Caraga regional PNP offices fully obligated the entire amount of their NTF-Elcac funds. The other police regional offices averaged only P6.614 million.
In contrast to the PNP’s small utilization of its anti-insurgency funds, the COA report said that the Armed Forces of the Philippines used up all P120 million released to it by the budget department for the “operational and logistical requirements” in support of the task force in 2020.
Halted peace talks
After terminating the peace talks with the communist rebels, President Rodrigo Duterte created the NTF-Elcac on Dec. 4, 2018, to “provide an efficient mechanism and structure for the implementation of the whole-of-nation approach to aid in the realization of the collective aspiration of the Filipino people to attain inclusive and sustainable peace.”
In August 2019, the Duterte administration proposed a P622-million 2020 budget for the task force. In January 2020, Hermogenes Esperon Jr., NTF-Elcac vice chair, said the President granted the task force around P36 billion to implement its counterinsurgency programs until 2021.
Around P20.15 billion was to be used in 2020 for “freed” villages while the remaining P16.288 billion would be appropriated in 2021 for development projects.
—WITH REPORTS FROM JEANNETTE I. ANDRADE AND ANA ROA, INQUIRER RESEARCH