Drilon to block even a single centavo of NTF-Elcac’s P40-B ‘election giveaway’
By Maila Ager / Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA — Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Monday vowed to oppose “even a single centavo” for the government’s anti-insurgency task force, calling its proposed P40-billion budget next year an “election giveaway.”
According to Drilon, a source confirmed that the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) “more than doubled” the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac) budget from this year’s P19.2 billion to P40 billion in 2022.
“Let’s not mince words: it’s an election giveaway,” the senator said in a statement.
“That would be unacceptable in the face of growing threats of COVID-19 virus. That would be an injustice to 4.2 million families who experienced hunger and 3.73 million Filipinos who lost jobs to the pandemic in May.”
“It is an election year budget and it is obvious that the 100-percent increase in the NTF-Elcac’s budget is designed to woo voters,” the senator went on.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año himself said last month that the agency would seek P40 billion for the barangay development program of the anti-insurgency task force.
Drilon lamented the proposed increase in the NTF-Elcac’s budget is being sought “at the expense of other urgent priorities such as the much-needed ayuda (aid) and the country’s growing budget deficit.”
The country’s deficit stood at P761 billion in June amid low revenue collection due to the pandemic, he pointed out.
The minority leader then urged the Commission of Audit to immediately conduct a “special audit” on this year’s budget of the task force, particularly the P16.3 billion that he said were distributed to around 820 insurgency-free barangays nationwide.
Some of the projects, he said, are “soft projects” that are prone to corruption such as livelihood and skills training programs, assistance to indigent individuals, educational assistance, medical assistance, burial assistance, seedlings and fertilizer distribution, and provision of agricultural farm inputs, among others.
“These soft programs are often the source of corruption as we have seen in the past,” Drilon said, “The COA knows the history of fertilizer fund scam and the TESDA ghost scholars. This is exactly the kind of system that is prone to corruption.”
A special audit of the NTF-Elcac funds by the COA would not only guide Congress in crafting the 2022 national budget as it would also prevent corruption, the senator stressed.