Bato hits naysayers of NTF-ELCAC; Drilon defends need to slash anti-insurgency task force's budget

Published November 21, 2021, 1:44 PM

by Hannah Torregoza 

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Sunday defended the Senate Committee on Finance’s decision to slash the budget for the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) in 2022 as he took exception to Senator Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa’s tirades against those who oppose the anti-insurgency task force.

Drilon made the remark after Dela Rosa called critics of the NTF-ELCAC and those who wish to abolish it “mga buwisit!” to express his annoyance against them in a DZBB radio interview.

“Nakakalungkot yung ginagamit ng ating kasamahan sa senado na ‘bwisit.’ Ito po ay debate para sa kapakanan ng taumbayan at tinitingnan natin kung paano ginastos ang pera ng taumbayan (It’s sad that our colleague in the Senate is using the word ‘buwisit.’ This is a debate where we are taking into consideration the welfare of our people and we are looking deep into how the government is spending public funds),” Drilon said also in an interview with radio DZBB on Sunday.

“Ako, kumokontra ako. Hindi naman siguro ako bwisit. Ito po, huwag na nating dalhin sa personalan, pag-usapan na lang natin (I oppose it. But I don’t think I’m annoying. Let’s not take turn this into a personal issue, let’s just discuss it),” he added.

“Stop the name-calling. It will not get us anywhere. It is an insult to the senators and the institution we belong to. Let’s stick to the issue,” Drilon advised the neophyte senator in a separate statement.

In the radio interview, Dela Rosa expressed his frustrations over the Senate finance committee, chaired by Sen. Sonny Angara, to reduce the NTF-ELCAC’s budget from P28-billion to P4-billion for next year.

“This year’s funding of NTF-ELCAC is P19-billion and of which P16.2-billion went to the Barangay Development Fund.

Dela Rosa reiterated that the funds would be used for development projects in far-flung areas in the Philippines where most of them are infested with communist rebels. He said giving these communities and provinces the necessary development funding could help prevent constituents from being indoctrinated or easily swayed by armed rebels.

“Pag hindi nila ibigay yan, lalong gugulo yan, dahila ng mga tao maghihintay ng wala. Sabihin itong gobyernong ito, promise ng promise pero di dinideliver. Sino matutuwa ngayon? Ang mga NPA! Babalik na naman yung masa dun sa NPA (If they refuse to give it, it will be chaotic. Because people will expect nothing. They will say this government continues to promise but failed to deliver. Who will be happy? Of course, the New Peoples’ Army. The masses will return to the NPA fold),” Dela Rosa said in the DZBB interview.

“Eto, sabihin ko sila, pero pangit pakinggan, pero buwisit sila! I-abolish kung kelan naging successful ang ahensya sa paglaban sa terorismo? Paglaban sa insurgency? Porke’t andyan sila sa opposition gusto nila hindi maging successful ang Duterte administration sa paglaban sa problema ng ating bansa? Ganun na lang talaga ang utak nila? Buwisit! (I will say it, though it doesn’t sound good but they are annoying! They will abolish the agency when it is successful in fighting terrorism? When it is fighting insurgency? Just because they are in the opposition, they do not want the Duterte administration to be successful in fighting the problems of the country? Is that how they think? They’re annoying)!” the former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief pointed out.

But Drilon disputed Dela Rosa’s claims the opposition is using the NTF-ELCAC for politics.

“Hindi ito pamumulitika. Ito ay pangangalaga ng pera ng taumbayan. Walang pamumulitika. Ito ay tamang paggamit ng pera ng taumbayan (There’s no politics involved here. We are taking care of public funds. No politics. We are making sure we are using public funds wisely),” Drilon pointed out.

Drilon reiterated his belief that the program is another “pork barrel” of the Executive department.

The veteran lawmaker also said the government needs funding for much-needed COVID-19 booster shots which remains unfunded in the proposed P5-trillion national budget for next year and the Senate finance panel was right in rechanneling the funds to support the government’s COVID-19 response.

Drilon also emphasized that the barangays are beneficiaries of regular programs implemented by line agencies and they stand to benefit as well from increased internal revenue allotments (IRA) next year.

The senator also questioned the utilization of the NTF-ELCAC funds noting that only 26 out of 2,318 approved projects supposedly for barangays cleared of insurgency were finished.

Earlier, during the budget hearings, Drilon criticized the agencies’ utilization of their NTF-ELCAC funds, specifically the Philippine National Police (PNP).

He pointed out the PNP got over P1-billion allocation for NTF-ELCAC this year. But when pressed for details, they failed to give concrete results citing that they had only conducted about 13 million activities in about 10 months.

Drilon found the PNP’s claim ridiculous and unbelievable.

“That’s 1,805 activities per hour! Has PNP become a ‘super body’ or ‘superman’? It is a mystery to me how they were able to do it,” Drilon had said.

He also pointed to the huge discrepancy in the way the Department of National Defense (DND) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) were left out in the implementation of the anti-insurgency program.