Mindanao, the center of the country’s insurgency problem, has not been given a “special treatment” in the implementation of the Barangay Development Program (BDP), according to National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr.
Esperon, also the vice chairman of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), said Sunday, Sept. 12, that he was “saddened” by the supposed proliferation of misinformation about the BDP.
“I take this opportunity that in no manner has there been preferential treatment as to the identification of barangay recipients. To be specific, Mindanao has the most number of cleared barangays from 2016 to 2019,” he said in a statement.
Recent reports have surfaced indicating that the government has been pouring most of the BDP funds in Mindanao while some of the recently declared insurgency-free provinces were supposedly not included in the list of beneficiaries.
From 2016 to 2019, there were 822 villages in 38 provinces that were identified as beneficiaries of the BDP. Of the 38 provinces, 18 are located in Mindanao, 13 are in Luzon, and the remaining seven are in Visayas.
These areas would receive P20 million each to fund various development initiatives after they were “freed” and “cleared” from the influence of the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army (NPA), and National Democratic Front (NDF).
However, no barangay from Bataan, Laguna, Cavite, Marinduque, and Romblon were reportedly included in the list of beneficiaries. The five provinces from Central and Southern Luzon were among the areas that were recently declared as insurgency-free by their own respective local government units (LGUs).
Lawmakers have also grown suspicious on the sudden spike of the proposed NTF-ELCAC budget for 2022, an election season, which amounted to P29.2 billion — including P28 billion for BDP. Opposition lawmaker and Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas deemed the NTF-ELCAC’s budget as “an election war chest.”
But Esperon explained that the NTF-ELCAC’s budget for 2022 covers an additional 1,406 barangays that were cleared of threats and influence from various communist groups.
“Most of these 1,406 barangays are located in Bicol, Eastern Visayas, and Caraga regions,” he said.
Esperon reiterated his appeal to the public not to politicize the implementation of the BDP which he described as “a primary answer” to the “collective aspirations for a better life” of the victims of the CPP-NPA-NDF.
“At the NTF-ELCAC, we cannot allow that these communities are subject to the whims and caprices of politics,” he concluded.