NTF-Elcac’s P10-B barangay dev’t fund up for scrutiny
A lawmaker on Friday called for a thorough scrutiny of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac), making a renewed push to have it defunded, after the proposed 2023 national budget earlier submitted to the House of Representatives showed an almost two-fold increase in just one allocation for the controversial body.
In her presentation of the budget on Monday, Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman herself noted to lawmakers that P10 billion had been allocated for the Barangay Development Program of the task force, a creation of the Duterte administration. The list of projects for that program, however, is “not yet complete,” Pangandaman said.
This prompted Assistant Minority Leader and Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas to point out that “it is highly suspicious that the proposed budget came out ahead of the list of projects.”
This “gives the impression that the government seems to be squandering public funds like nothing,” she added.
“We won’t allow ghost items in the 2023 budget, especially for a task force that has a long-standing track record in using public funds for Red-tagging and vilification of activists and ordinary citizens,” Brosas said.
Following Monday’s presentation of the budget, ACT Teachers Rep. Frances Castro noted that the P10 billion almost doubled the current allotment of P5.6 billion for barangay development.
Besides the P5.6 billion in programmed funds, NTF-Elcac is also authorized by the current budget to tap an additional P10.5 billion in unprogrammed, or “standby” appropriations—money not currently available but reserved for the task force once an allotment is ready.
‘Meager’ gov’t cash aid
Brosas warned that the task force will likely continue its practice of providing “pork barrel” to retired generals and unitemized allocations to the barangays.
“The amount involved is no joke [as it] is four times the allocation for housing projects in the [proposed] 2023 budget at only P2.5 billion,” she said.
Brosas noted that while military generals are “wallowing” in billions of discretionary funds, millions of Filipinos have to endure the struggle of queuing up for “meager” government cash aid.
She added that President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. may have been silent on the issues hounding NTF-Elcac, but he is “ensuring the steady and bigger supply of cash” for the task force.
Since it was formed in 2018, the task force has found its budget under constant scrutiny because of allotments that critics say do not fulfill its mandated “whole-of-nation” approach in solving the insurgency problem.
In 2021, some 80 barangays in Davao City, the hometown of then President Rodrigo Duterte, and 133 others in the Davao Region were each allotted P20 million from the Barangay Development Program. Observers, however, noted that these areas were hardly a hotbed of the insurgency.
According to Executive Order No. 70 issued by Duterte, the task force is headed by the president as chair and the national security adviser as vice chair.
Serving as national security adviser to Marcos is retired political science professor and former National Defense College of the Philippines president Clarita Carlos.
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