Senate leaders on Monday said a move to reduce or eliminate some P19 billion set aside to sustain the anti-communist insurgency campaign of the national government in the countryside is a big “No, No.”
“It’s part of the main thrust of the (Duterte) administration na nilinis mo yung mga barangay (to clean the barangay of insurgents),” President Vicente C. Sotto III said of proposals to whittle down the P19 billion for the Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (TF-ELCAC) embedded in the proposed P4.5-trillion national budget for 2021.
Sotto’s stand is supported by Senator Panfilo M. Lacson, chairman of the Senate national defense and security committee. Lacson is a former chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP).
The political opposition stated that they preferred to transfer P19-billion budget for the TF-ELCAC to other government agencies to help contain the current coronavirus disease (COVID-19) or for support to victims of the three successive typhoons that ravaged the country.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon doubted whether the P19 billion could be fully audited.
“Dudumi uli yan pag hindi mo binigyan yan ng eskwelahan, hindi mo binigyan mo ng health facilities, hindi mo binigyan ng trabaho, hindi mo binigyan ng employment at saka ng tulong yung mga tao dun sa barangay. Sasama uli dun sa kaliwa yan. Di ba? Ganun yun eh (The insurgents will resettle anew in the barangays if you do not put up schools, health facilities, if you do not provide jobs, if you do not provide employment and assistance to the people in the barangays. They will rejoin the communists. That is how it is),” Sotto said.
“So, huwag mo pag-initan yun, maghanap tayo ng iba muna at maraming makikita na pwedeng ilagay dun (Don’t be hot on the P19 billion. Find other sources of funding and you will find many that could be used to increase the calamity fund),” Sotto added.
“Pero at the start palang, eh ang suggestion kaagad eh targetin yung anti-insurgency. Hindi talaga kami makakapayag. And besides, really, it’s part of the main thrust of the administration na nilinis mo yung mga barangay (At the start, they already targeted the anti-insurgency [of the government]. We will not allow that to happen…. the main thrust of the administration is to clean the barangays),” Sotto stressed.
“That is the big no, no as far as we’re concerned and as far as the Palace is concerned. I assure you if you ask (Budget) Secretary (Wendel) Avisado, Secretary (Carlos) Dominguez, and the President. I don’t think they will allow that,” he said.
“Pag ginalaw namin yun, I assure ive-veto. It’s part of the legacy of this administration that once and for all, yung mga barangay na dating nasasakupan ng mga NPA at saka ng ibang insurgents ay malinis na at wag ng makabalik. That is one of the legacies na gustong gawin nitong administrasyon na to eh. (The President will veto it if we touch that. The barangays that were once under the control of the New People’s Army and other insurgents must be cleaned so that they would not be able to come back. That is one of the legacies that the administration wants to leave). So, I assure you if we touch that, that will be vetoed,” he added.