Drilon defends huge slash on NTF-ELCAC budget

Drilon defends huge slash on NTF-ELCAC budget

By Ernie Reyes

MANILA — Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon defended the Senate
Committee on Finance’s decision to slash to P4 billion the funding for
the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict
(NTF-ELCAC) in 2022.

The veteran senator also took exception to Senator Bato Dela Rosa’s
tirades against those who opposed NTF-ELCAC.

The former Philippine National Police chief of President Duterte
reportedly called critics of NTF-ELCAC “bwisit” in a radio interview
Sunday.

“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,” Drilon
said 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,” 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.

Drilon disputed the claims of Dela Rosa that the opposition is using the
NTF-ELCAC for politics.

“Hindi ito pamumulitika. Ito ay pangangalaga ng pera ng taumbayan,”
Drilon said. “Walang pamumulitika. Ito ay tamang paggamit ng pera ng
taumbayan.”

Drilon, whose term ends next year, has been vocal about his criticisms
of the government’s anti-insurgency programs since 2020, calling the
program another “pork barrel” of the Executive.

Drilon enumerated a number of reasons why he is opposing the NTF-ELCAC
and supporting the decision of the Senate Finance Committee to slash
its funding to P4 billion from P28 billion. This year’s funding of
NTF-ELCAC is P19 billion and of which, P16.2 billion went to Barangay
Development Fund.

He noted that the funding for much-needed COVID-19 booster shots
remains unfunded in the proposed General Appropriations Act. The
proposed national budget allocated P45 billion for the purchase of
COVID-19 vaccines under the unprogrammed fund.

The senator said it is best to rechannel the funds in support of the
government’s pandemic response such as the procurement of COVID-19
booster shots and provision for ayuda.

There are also no funds for the Ayuda, he noted.

In addition, Drilon 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 next year.

“Sa akin po, sinusuportahan ko ang decision ni Sen. Angara. Ang
proyekto sa barangay, maraming pwedeng magbigay diyan: DA, DOH, DPWH,
DSWD. Nakakalat sa iba’t ibang ahensya. Ang lumalabas na itong
NTF-ELCAC na lang ang maitutulong sa barangay, hindi po tama iyan,”
Drilon said.

Drilon also pointed out that only 26 out of 2,318 approved projects
supposedly for barangays cleared of the insurgency were finished.

Drilon also criticized the agencies’ utilization of their NTF-ELCAC
funds, specifically the Philippine National Police. The PNP got over
P1 billion allocation for NTF-ELCAC this year. However, when PNP was
pressed for details of their utilization of their NTF-ELCAC
allocation, they could not give concrete and believable explanation
and only cited that they had 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 recently said.

The Senate chief fiscalizer also cited a huge disconnect in the way
the Department of National Defense and the Armed Forces of the
Philippines are left out in the implementation of the country’s
anti-insurgency programs.

Drilon could not believe that the AFP, which is tasked to fight
the insurgency was only given P199,000 from NTF-ELCAC allocation, while
the PNP received a whopping P1 billion.

“That’s unusual. “I cannot believe that the agency in charge of our
internal security will get only P199,000. I don’t think it’s fair and
equitable,” Drilon said during the plenary debates on the budget of
the DND’s proposed 2022 budget.

Lastly, Drilon recalled how senators questioned why NTF-ELCAC gave
P400 million to Panabo City in Davao Del Norte alone while the rest of
Davao del Norte only received P60 million. (ai/mtvn)

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