‘13 million anti-Red activities’ raise red flag at Senate | Inquirer News
Tantamount to 43,333 events in a day and 1,805 in an hour, says Drilon

‘13 million anti-Red activities’ raise red flag at Senate

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MANILA, Philippines — How is it possible for any government body to perform 13 million anti-insurgency activities in less than a year?

That amounts to 43,333 events in a day and 1,805 in an hour, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said on Friday, a day after he quizzed the Philippine National Police on the use of its P1-billion allocation from the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, or the NTF-Elcac.

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“Has PNP become a ‘super body’ or ‘superman’? It is a mystery to me how they were able to do it,” Drilon said in a statement.

At the Senate’s plenary deliberation on the PNP’s 2022 budget on Thursday, Drilon raised questions on the use of its share of NTF-Elcac funds, citing irregularities flagged by the Commission on Audit (COA).

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In 2021, the PNP, whose director general is a member of the NTF-Elcac, was allocated P1.084 billion for its anti-insurgency programs, the same amount it is seeking from Congress for next year.

Of that amount, P766.2 million has been obligated since January.

Where money went

Asked by Drilon where the money went, the budget sponsor, Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara, cited PNP data showing that it was used for the conduct of about 13 million anticommunism activities by its 12 clusters.

It is the budget sponsor who defends the appropriation on the agency’s behalf during plenary deliberations.

The activities, per Angara who chairs the Senate finance committee, were “counter-mobilization activities,” “conduct of focused law enforcement operations,” “capacity building and situational awareness,” “retooled community support related activities,” “intensified monitoring of communist terrorist groups,” and “assistance on interagency case buildup on extortion activities by terrorist groups, among others.”

But Drilon was incredulous. “I’ve been in the Senate for 24 years and this is the first time I heard of a report of funds being spent on 13 million activities in a span of one year, or less,” he said.

In his statement, Drilon said that after computation, “for the past 10 months, assuming 13 million activities, that would be 43,333 activities per day.”

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Drilon urged the newly appointed PNP chief, Lt. Gen. Dionardo Carlos, to review the PNP’s “unbelievable and suspicious” use of its anti-insurgency funds.

“May we request that this allocation be examined closely, and we will accept the explanation of the good sponsor,” he said. “I would strongly suggest that the committee take a look at this carefully. This is not small money. It is bigger than many of the budgets presented here.”

This year, the NTF-Elcac was allocated P19.33 billion in funding, including P16.4 billion for the Local Government Support Funds under the Support to Barangay Development Program, and P2.9 billion distributed to agencies for “administrative and operations expenses.”

Drilon cited the COA-flagged deficiencies in the funds of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) for the NTF-Elcac worth P1.23 million, “including expenses in projects that were not aligned with the original setup.”

He noted that the COA had also flagged P1.06 million worth of payables with incomplete documents.

State auditors found that the DILG’s unliquidated funds were 73 percent higher than the initial allocation to the NTF-Elcac, and that the budget modifications were improperly documented.

Fund realignment

The NTF-Elcac has proposed a P28-billion budget for 2022 but the Senate plans to cut it to only P4 billion for alleged misuse, and to realign the funds to COVID-19 response.

The People’s Budget Coalition has urged the government to reallocate more fiscal space from nonurgent programs to projects concerning health and inclusive recovery.

At a press conference on Tuesday, the coalition raised the need for an inclusive use of public funds and proposed a P1.3-trillion pandemic recovery budget for the health, youth and education, and transport and labor sectors.

Vice President Leni Robredo, who is seeking the presidency in 2022, has said that if elected, she would move for the abolition of the NTF-Elcac and the reallocation of its funds to appropriate agencies.

The proposed abolition has gained the support of various groups that said the task force, ostensibly formed to fund social services in insurgency-ridden barangays nationwide, was being used to Red-tag activists and political dissidents.

On Friday, Robredo’s running mate, Sen. Francis Pangilinan, pushed the proposal to abolish the NTF-Elcac and called for the resumption of peace talks with communist rebels “in whatever form, as long as we’re talking and not shooting.”

“It’s correct to support these barangays but it has to be done right,” Pangilinan said in a virtual Pandesal Forum. “These funds should instead go to agencies like the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and Technical Education and [Skills] Development Authority, who can cascade these services and continue to disburse these funds.”

Pangilinan backed the resumption of peace talks between the government and the Communist Party of the Philippines, saying the death toll in the 50-year insurgency was almost comparable to that recorded under the war on drugs.

“If we hold peace talks and we come to an understanding, maybe we can get billions in peace dividends to provide for the issues being raised: poverty, hunger,” he said.

Social protection

The People’s Budget Coalition said the government should allot P550 billion for the social protection of marginalized sectors and at least P268 billion to help 4.25 million unemployed Filipinos get back on their feet through jobs, wage subsidies and skills training.

It also called on the government to provide at least P176 billion for additional benefits to around 2 million health-care workers and uplift the state of the public health-care system.

To help distressed transport workers and address a “massive public transport shortage,” the coalition proposed a P150-billion budget for “strategic road-based public transport investments,” including safe pathways and bike lanes and a large equity subsidy for public transport workers.

For education, it urged the government to allot P94 billion, to cover transport and load allowance to teachers and grant stipends to learners.

The coalition identified the possible fund sources as, among others, the DPWH, the Department of Transportation, the Office of the President, the PNP, and the NTF-Elcac. —With a report from Krixia Subingsubing

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TAGS: 2022 proposed budget, budget hearing, Commission On Audit (COA), NTF-ELCAC, PNP‎, Sen. Franklin Drilon, Senate
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