Gatchalian says he regrets voting in favor of NTF-ELCAC budget

Published April 26, 2021, 2:39 PM

by Hannah Torregoza 

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Monday, April 26, admitted he was among the senators who voted in favor of the creation of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), a presidential task force established to provide a whole-of-nation approach to combat insurgency.

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian (MANILA BULLETIN File Photo/Senate of the Philippines)

But now he has doubts, Gatchalian said, saying he didn’t foresee that the task force would be used as a vehicle to harass or red-tag individuals even without sufficient evidence.

“Yes, I voted in favor of that program, the anti-insurgency program, precisely because my view is we need to bring peace to the entire country. And there are a lot of barangays which are being disturbed by terrorists by insurgency and we cannot bring true progress to the countryside without peace,” Gatchalian said in an interview on ANC’s Matters of Fact.

“That’s why I voted in favor because this is a vehicle to bring progress and to bring peace to those 800 barangays targeted by the anti-insurgency program,” he explained.

But with two of its officials red-baiting and accusing individuals especially those who participated and organized in community pantries to help the poor who were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the senator said he now has doubts on the efficacy of the NTF-ELCAC’s program.

Several senators, including Gatchalian, are seeking to review the NTF-ELCAC’s budget and realign it’s P19-billion funding to boost the government’s COVID-19 response.

Of the amount, P16.4-billion is supposed to be used for the task force’s local government development program where barangays that are deemed free of communist rebels would be given P20-million to spend for infrastructure projects.

“I have now my doubts. Because, like I said, what’s important here are the people implementing the program. The people spending P16-billion, allocating the 16 billion is one action. The next action is looking at those who are implementing, but if you are now seeing that people are using this sums of money to baselessly accuse other people, red tagging without evidence, maligning the credibility of organizers, now this will raise a lot of doubts whether the people there are in fact qualified to spend P16-billion,” he said.

The lawmaker pointed out there already exist agencies that can readily implement infrastructure projects to help these communities.

“Let me emphasize…the enemy is the insurgents. The enemy are the terrorist and we need to move forward together in order to bring progress to the countryside and all of this stemmed from baseless accusations and irresponsible statements,” he pointed out.

“That should be corrected because that is tainting the image and the management of the NTF and its programs,” he stressed.