Senate President Vicente Sotto III said on Friday, April 30, that he will work on convincing his fellow senators to retain the funds of the government’s anti-insurgency task force.
Sotto made the vow when asked about the opposition of local chief executives and barangay (village) officials on the proposed defunding of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) amid criticisms over its red-tagging activities.
“Tell them I’m on their side. I’ll work on it,” the Senate chief told reporters in a Viber message.
Sotto has been opposed to the appeal of some senators to defund the NTF-ELCAC as its spokesperson, Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr., again came under fire for linking community pantry organizers to communist rebels. But he supported their appeal to censure Parlade for attacking senators for their call.
“People don’t know that the officials of NTF ELCAC have nothing to do with the funds. It goes straight to the LGUs (local government units). That’s why I said, remove the talkatives but not the program. Why blame the program for loose talks?” he reiterated Friday.
Last Monday, April 26, five senators filed a resolution that calls for a Senate inquiry to look into the performance of the NTF-ELCAC and the utilization of its P19-billion budget this year.
Senator Joel Villanueva, who first floated the proposal to defund the NTF-ELCAC and one of the authors of the resolution, pointed out that the Senate hearing will primarily be a review of how the government’s anti-insurgency funds are actually being spent.
“Please remind them the difference of ‘tinanggalan at bubusisiin (removal and review)’,” he said in separate message when sought for comment about the LGUs’ appeal.
Of its 2021 budget, P16.4-billion is supposed to be used for the task force’s local government development program, where villages that are deemed cleared of communist rebels would receive P20 million to spend for infrastructure and livelihood projects.