Angara doubts NTF-Elcac funds can be used for elections
By Christia Marie Ramos / Philippine Daily Inquirer
Senate finance panel chairman Sen. Sonny Angara starts defending the proposed 2022 national budget amounting to P5.024 trillion during Wednesday’s hybrid plenary session, November 10, 2021. (Voltaire F. Domingo/Senate PRIB)
MANILA, Philippines — Senate finance panel chairman Senator Sonny Angara on Friday allayed concerns that the budget of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict’s (NTF-Elcac) barangay development fund can be used for next year’s elections.
“Hindi e, because ang pumipili is the barangay. It’s not like a candidate will say or the candidate of the administration will say ‘O ito ang gusto kong mapondohan, dito ko gustong ilagay,’” Angara said in an interview on ABS-CBN News Channel when asked about the possibility of the NTF-Elcac budget becoming an “election fund.”
“These barangays have already been chosen and whether or not these barangays are for a certain candidate or not, they will be given those projects,” he added.
“There is no possibility of arbitrariness…There’s a criterion, they’re transparent about who their recipients are. There’s a listing,” he further said.
For 2021, the NTF-Elcac was given a P19-billion budget allocation, over P16 billion of which was allotted for the development of barangays “cleared” of communist insurgency.
“You’re helping poor barangays—which were once under the control of insurgence—it’s still a good idea. The concept is really hard to argue with. The battle against insurgency is never a battle just of armed struggle, it’s also a battle for the hearts and minds of people,” Angara said.
“But we want to see a good execution of a good concept,” Angara further said.
He said giving NTF-Elcac “really big funds” for 2021 even amid the pandemic was a “leap of faith” and the least the task force can do is to provide “good reporting or accounting” of how these were used.
For the 2022 budget, Angara’s committee slashed as much as P24 billion from the proposed P28-billion funding for the NTF-Elcac due to the lack of a detailed report on how its previous funds were spent.
“The real reason we cut it is because there was no report forthcoming. Their only report to us was ‘100 percent released by the DBM (Department of Budget and Management) to the local government units all over the country.’ So the senators we’re not satisfied with that kind of accounting of how the funds were spent. We’d like to know what projects were funded,” the senator said.
“Maaaring nasa FB site yan ng NTF-Elcac but they should give us a comprehensive report…All agencies have to do this. They have to justify their budget for the next year,” he added.
He then emphasized the need for the NTF-Elcac to submit more details on the projects it undertook.
“The reports are just a one-liner of ‘this is the project.’ We want more details. Can you show us what were the projects that were 100-percent accomplished? Which are the projects that are 50-percent accomplished. What are the completion dates, what are the exact locations of these projects,” he said.
‘Way too early’
Meanwhile, Angara said it is “way too early” to decide whether to abolish the NTF-Elcac.
“No, I don’t think so. I think it’s way too early to make that judgment for the NTF-Elcac,” Angara said when asked if the task force should already be abolished.
There had been previous calls to defund the NTF-Elcac after it was linked to red-tagging controversies.
Recently, presidential aspirant Vice President Leni Robredo vowed to abolish the task force and endeavor a “conducive environment” for peace talks with insurgents.