‘Is Davao City a poor barangay?’ Row seethes over Barangay Development Program
MANILA, Philippines — The billion-peso funding of the Barangay Development Program (BDP) of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Insurgency (NTF- Elcac) was the subject of a heated argument between the Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives and Interior Secretary Jonathan Malaya.
The Makabayan lawmakers on Wednesday assailed Malaya for accusing them of spreading “fake news” about the NTF-Elcac when, according to Bayan Muna Rep. Ferdinand Gaite, it was the task force that had been publicly called out for its “penchant for spreading dangerous lies and disinformation.”
Gaite said that if it were true that the program’s funding was for development, “then they better prove that it indeed brought development to the barangays which received the funds.”
A different story
“The facts we have now paint a different story,” Gaite said in a statement. “What is happening in the provinces cited by the NTF-Elcac is not development, but killings of farmers, unionists, activists, abuses of indigenous peoples, raids and planting of evidence.”
Earlier, the Makabayan bloc described Interior Secretary Eduardo Año as “thick-skinned” for wanting the funding of the BDP increased from the current P16.4 billion to P40 billion in 2022.
In response, Malaya challenged the lawmakers to prove that the funds were being misused. He said the Department of Budget and Management had released most of the money to 813 barangays nationwide.
Malaya also said it was unlikely that the funds had been squandered because 17 projects were being implemented and 1,130 were in the procurement stage.
But Gaite argued that what Malaya was “bragging about does not, and would not, genuinely address the question of poverty and social ills in the countryside.”
He said the program was “just for show.”
“Those infrastructure projects, if they are really being done, would just be useless brick and mortar if not coupled with economic reforms, such as land distribution and development programs, that strengthen the local economy,” he said.
To the lawmakers’ warning that the NTF-Elcac funds might be used for the 2022 national elections, Malaya countered that the recipients were not vote-rich barangays.
Power of the purse
But Gaite cited the grant of P1.64 billion to the “first-class, highly urbanized Davao City,” the stronghold of President Rodrigo Duterte and his daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, and P4.3 billion to the Davao Region.
Quoting the Commission on Elections, Gaite said the Davao Region “has the highest voting population among the regions in Mindanao, with more than three million voters.”
The grant “stinks of politics,” he said. “They are really on election mode.”Bayan Muna Rep. Eufemia Cullamat agreed, saying it was Congress, exercising the power of the purse, and not the NTF-Elcac, that should choose the barangays to receive the development funds.
“They can easily funnel billions of pesos into any project, even ghost projects, in the barangays that they are conniving with. They’ve been exposed before,” Cullamat said.
Davao City has received “a lot of funds,” she said, and wondered: “Does Davao have more than half of the number of rebels? Is Davao a poor barangay?”
“This is an indication that they are using the insurgency to steal the people’s money, or use it for their election expenses,” Cullamat added. Assistant Minority Leader and ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro said the BDP “does not guarantee any barangay progress and prosperity.”
“Instead, it guarantees them more threats and harassment,” she said.
Castro said the COVID-19 pandemic and the worsening economic crisis had led to millions of Filipinos unemployed, hungry and without access to adequate medical services.
“Government resources should be concentrated in addressing the perennial shortages in our health-care system and aid for our fellow Filipinos. Programs that terrorize, harass and criminalize … our fellow Filipinos who demand better services do not deserve a single centavo from taxpayer money,” she said.
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