Some NTF-Elcac funds passed to cities, provinces, as barangays can’t handle it
MANILA, Philippines — Several of the funds from the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac) appropriated for the barangay development program were passed on to local government units (LGUs) supervising the areas, as barangays cannot accommodate the big projects.
This was revealed during the Senate hearing on the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) proposed budget on Thursday, after Senate President Vicente Sotto III asked if it is true that P400 million of the P460 NTF-Elcac funds allocated to Davao del Norte were given to Panabo City alone.
“Just to clarify, because I was on the phone with Governor [Edwin] Jubahib eh, of Davao del Norte, that’s the reason I asked. ‘Yon daw P460 (million) na binigay sa Davao del Norte, P400 million sa Panabo City, wala raw insurgent doon eh. P60 million to the rest of the province. May we know why?” Sotto asked.
Senator Sonny Angara, who is defending the DBM budget, said that National Security Adviser and NTF-Elcac member Secretary Hermogenes Esperon said that 23 barangays in Davao del Norte — 20 of which were in Panabo City — got the anti-insurgency projects.
But the barangays can no longer accommodate the huge funds, Angara noted.
“It was given to the 23 barangays because hindi talaga kaya no’ng mga barangay ‘yong gano’ng klaseng amount. So it’s either the city or the province who points out the projects and implements the projects,” he added.
Sotto’s question also sparked slightly heated discussions between him and Senator Ronald dela Rosa, a staunch defender of the NTF-Elcac and an advocate of its funding.
According to Dela Rosa, he is aware of why most of the funds went to Panabo — because the area is a hotbed of communists.
“Mr. President if I may, if I may, I can answer that question. Baka hindi alam ni Governor Jubahib na ‘yang Panabo, eh ‘yan palagi ang hotbed ng NPA […] ‘yan ‘yong pinaka-guerilla base ng NPA, ‘yang Panabo na ‘yan,” Dela Rosa said.
“Kaya kung sabihin niya na mas maraming NPA ang Tagum City que sa Panabo, mali po siya, kahit gobyerno siya makipag-debate ako sa kanya,” he claimed.
Sotto retaliated, stressing that his question was not related to whether there was an insurgency in any area, adding that he was only confirming whether what Jubahib told him was true.
“No, no, walang sinasabing — he is not saying to that effect. He is merely saying na P400 million ang binigay sa Panabo, P60 (million) sa iba because I was verifying the answer. Walang sinasabing gano’n, anong Davao City, we did not mention Davao City,” Sotto, who appeared to have misheard Tagum for Davao, said.
NTF-Elcac’s budget has been a recent topic in the Senate after it moved to slash the anti-communist insurgency body’s funds for 2022, from the proposed P28 billion to just P4 billion.
Dela Rosa objected to the proposed budget, saying that defunding NTF-Elcac would paralyze the barangay development programs and result in a win for the New People’s Army.
But Sotto noted that they were only concerned that the NTF-Elcac failed to provide a breakdown of their expenditures.
Dela Rosa, for his part, insisted that the NTF-Elcac funds are not being used for political purposes, as getting government funds for the campaign war chest has never been a policy under President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration.
“I just want to allay the fears of some of our colleagues here na nagsasabi na itong Barangay Development Programs na ito ay nagiging election giveaways lang ito ng administration para sa upcoming national elections,” Dela Rosa said.
“Sabihin ko po sa inyo, kung sa tingin ng mga pulitiko ay election giveaways ito, sa ordinaryo pong mamamayan doon sa bundok ito po ay grand prize nila for their decades of fighting against the (government), to gain their freedom from the clutches of the insurgency,” he added.
The NTF-Elcac, an office created to usher in development to the countryside to stop the communist influence and insurgency, has been criticized for allegedly having funds which act as pork barrel of government agencies inside it.
Earlier, documents cited by Angara showed that only 26 of the 2,318 projects under the NTF-Elcac’s Barangay Development Fund worth P16.4 billion have been completed. Another 900 projects are still under the pre-procurement stage, 700 projects more are in the procurement stage, while 560 are still being implemented.
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