Drilon vows to block 2022 NTF-ELCAC budget: P28-B Duterte election war chest?

Published June 1, 2021, 4:53 PM

by Hannah Torregoza 

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Tuesday vowed to oppose next year’s budget of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), reiterating his belief the budget would be used as a huge “campaign kitty” of the Duterte administration for the 2022 elections.

“We should be more vigilant. The 2022 budget is an election budget. We must not allow the budget to be used for election or partisan political activities,” Drilon said in a statement.

Drilon said he believes that the NTF-ELCAC will seek an increase to its budget in the upcoming budget deliberations to give away more funds to different barangays across the country “in an election year.”

The opposition stalwart said it is obvious that the task force’s budget is disguised as an anti-insurgency budget to help increase the chances of administration candidates in the May 2022 elections.

According to Drilon, he is ready to oppose the controversial task force’s budget “tooth and nail” and also believes other senators will propose to defund the agency or give it a zero budget.

Under the NTF-ELCAC’s Barangay Development Program (BDP), barangays that have been cleared of “communist influence” will be awarded P20-million.

On Monday, May 31, the Partido ng Demokratikong Pilipino-Laban (PDP-Laban), Duterte’s political party, adopted a resolution urging lawmakers to maintain or increase the funding for the NTF-ELCAC during a national council meeting held in Cebu City.

Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, the party’s vice chairman, approved the motion and hailed its adoption, saying he believes that these funds are very important in ensuring that Filipinos “in the hinterlands” would feel the government presence and government services.

“Deleting or scrapping the NTF-ELCAC funds will only bolster the insurgency problem of several areas in the country,” Cusi said during the meeting.

Earlier, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon announced that the number of “cleared” barangays has increased by 1,398—from 822 to 2,220. The said 822 barangays had already received funding from the task force’s P16.4-billion budget.

“That would be a whopping P28-billion election war chest. We will vehemently oppose the budget of the NTF-ELCAC,” he said.

“In fact, we will propose that every centavo that will be allocated to the NTF-ELCAC in the budget in the to be submitted National Expenditure Program (NEP) be realigned to our pandemic response and ‘ayuda’ or financial assistance to the poor who continuously experience hunger because of the pandemic,” the senator added.

Drilon said that instead of allocating billions of taxpayers’ money to the NTF-ELCAC, the government should increase the budget of 4Ps or the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps).

“Let us use the funds to assist our jobless kababayans (fellowmen),” he stressed.

Drilon had earlier joined other lawmakers in castigating the NTF-ELCAC’s spokespersons for red-tagging individuals and groups when some citizens came up with the idea of a community pantry to help citizens that are having a hard time getting state cash aid during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fifteen (15) senators led by Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Drilon, filed last month, Senate Resolution No. 709, censuring it’s spokesperson Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade, Jr. for his disrespectful, derogatory and demeaning statements against the Senate.

The senators also questioned Parlade’s continued stay in the task force, which they said is a violation of the Constitution.