Senate cuts NTF-Elcac 2022 budget by 86% | Inquirer News
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Senate cuts NTF-Elcac 2022 budget by 86%

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MANILA, Philippines — The Senate is set to slash the proposed funding for the controversial National Task Force to End Local Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac) by as much as P24 billion in the 2022 proposed spending measure, Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara said on Tuesday.

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But while Angara called the 2022 national budget as a “COVID-19 recovery budget,” the government’s proposed P312-billion funding for health is still out-funded by projected spending for infrastructure of P665.5 billion.

Angara on Tuesday sponsored House Bill No. 10153, or the 2022 General Appropriations Bill, which seeks to allot P5.024 trillion for the 2022 national budget.

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According to Angara, the reduction in the NTF-Elcac budget was borne out of questions of alleged misuse of its P19.33 billion funding in 2021, including P16.4 billion for the Local Government Support Funds under the Support to Barangay Development Program, and P2.9 billion distributed across agencies for “administrative and operations expenses.”

Misuse of funds

The proposed reduction comes as senators hinted at the failure of the task force to account for its P19.1-billion funding in 2021.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson had earlier flagged the alleged misuse of NTF-Elcac funds, including its supposed use for the conduct of a questioned survey in the barangays.

The senator backed the slash in the NTF-Elcac budget, after being subjected to alleged online trolling, purportedly carried out by the government agency.

“Not only do I support the slash in the NTF-Elcac’s proposed budget for 2022, if such misuse was indeed committed, the officials concerned must be made accountable, if not criminally liable,” said Lacson, chair of the Senate committee on national defense and security.

According to Lacson, issues of alleged fund misuse are “far worse” than unused funding.

“If the chair of the Senate finance committee (Angara) himself asserts that those entrusted to utilize the NTF-Elcac funds cannot even provide the details on how they spent the same, they have no business asking for more,” he said.

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According to Angara, next year’s budget is hoped to lay down the government’s strategy toward the nation’s recovery from COVID-19, and its return to normalcy.

‘Zero would be better’

According to Angara, the 2022 budget “gives a lot of weight to the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

It seeks to allot P51 billion for the COVID-19 benefit and compensation for health workers, but P40 billion of which is lodged under unprogrammed funds. This means that funding will be dependent on the inflow of revenues that the government will collect next year.

Another P61.6 billion is being allocated for the purchase of COVID-19 booster shots, with P45.3 billion lodged under unprogrammed appropriations, to provide an additional one dose to around 83.4 million Filipinos estimated at P544 per dose.

While Makabayan lawmakers are glad that the Senate finance panel slashed the P28-billion budget of the state’s anticommunist insurgency task force, “bringing it to zero would be better.”

“Slashing the budget of the NTF-Elcac is not enough, it should be completely defunded and abolished,” said House deputy minority leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate.

House assistant minority leader and Gabriela Womens Rep. Arlene Brosas also welcomed the Senate finance committee’s move to cut the NTF-Elcac’s budget from P28 to P4 billion.

“Although bringing it to zero would be better. This is precisely what we are pushing for during the House budget deliberations, as the task force failed to provide any legal authority and documentation to justify the ‘general’s pork’ masquerading as local government projects,” she said.

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TAGS: 2022 national budget, NTF-Elcac 2022 budget, Senate
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