Five senators have called for a Senate inquiry to look into the performance of the government’s anti-insurgency task force and its utilization of its P19-billion budget this year.
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, Joel Villanueva, Nancy Binay, Grace Poe and Sherwin Gatchalian filed on Monday, April 26, Resolution No. 707 to ask the chamber to determine whether the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) has so far been effective in its mandate and efficient in disbursing its funds.
“We filed this resolution today to hold NTF-ELCAC accountable for its operations, including the baseless red tagging of community pantries and certain individuals,” Villanueva said in a statement.
“It is our responsibility as legislators to ensure that government programs do not harm the people we serve,” he maintained.
In the resolution, the senators underscored the need to to review how the NTF-ELCAC has been utilizing it funds amid the dwindling government resources, particularly amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s P19.1-billion appropriation for 2021, they said, “should be used instead to help address the needs of our citizens during this pandemic.”
They noted that this was not the first that the anti-insurgency body came under fire for “baselessly” red-tagging individuals, groups and entities.
Before community pantry organizers, the NTF-ELCAC linked celebrities to communist rebels just for advocating women’s rights, as well as educational institutions for allegedly serving as “recruitment havens” for insurgents.
“While the establishment of the NTF-ELCAC is, in principle, a good approach to end local communist armed conflict, there have been news reports and stories shared by various citizens on social media showing that members of the NTF-ELCAC have been publicly red-tagging individuals and entities, purportedly to harass and intimidate ordinary citizens,” the lawmakers said.
“Rather than a bona fide effort to counter insurgencies in the country, the agency’s actions have only served to deter the lawful exercise of the constitutionally-guaranteed right to freedom of expression of every Filipino, and cast doubt as to the true intent behind its operations,” they pointed out.
“There is a need to draw the line between legitimate government counter-insurgency strategies against internal armed conflicts and threats on the one hand, and the silencing and crippling of innocent civilians with baseless and unsubstantiated claims,” the senator said.
Of the NTF-ELCAC’s 2021 budget, P16.4-billion is supposed to be used for the task force’s local government development program where barangays (villages) that are deemed free of communist rebels would be given P20-million to spend for infrastructure projects.