No way for NTF-ELCAC to abuse P16-B fund for NPA-free barangays – Lacson

By Christia Marie Ramos / Philippine Daily Inquirer

KEEP OUT – Residents of Barangay Datu Ladayon in Arakan, North Cotabato, want communist rebels out of their community. —CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

MANILA — The P16-billion fund for the development of barangays cleared of insurgency, P9 billion of which has already been released, cannot be “abused” by the administration’s anti-insurgency task force, Senator Panfilo Lacson assured on Friday.


Lacson gave this assurance to lawmakers eyeing to defund or realign the budget lodged under the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) due to red-tagging concerns.


Lacson said the fund for the barangay development program will not be at the disposal of the security sector since it is part of the Special Purpose Fund under the Assistance to Local Government Units (ALGU), for holding and developing barangays cleared of the influence of the New People’s Army (NPA).


“Being the sponsor of the NTF-ELCAC’s 2021 budget, it is my obligation and responsibility to defend the Department of Budget and Management’s release of funds which will be implemented not by the NTF-ELCAC but by the local government units concerned,” he said.


As chairman of the Senate National Defense Committee, Lacson defended the 2021 budget of the Department of National Defense (DND) and its attached agencies.


Under the 2021 budget, a total of P19 billion is allocated for NTF-ELCAC, P16.4 billion of which is earmarked for the task force’s barangay development program.


Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon earlier criticized the “speedy” release of over P10 billion out of the NTF-ELCAC’s P19-billion budget as he questioned the government’s spending priorities amid the pandemic.


But Lacson said the P9.699 billion released for the development program for cleared barangays will not be implemented by the task force itself.


He noted that the programs, activities and projects (PAPs) worth P1 million or less will be implemented by the barangay; those worth more than P1 million but not more than P10 million by the city or municipality; and those worth more than P10 million by the province.


PAPs for the said barangays, he added, include the construction of water systems, local roads, school buildings, and day-care centers.


Citing Special Allotment Release Orders (SAROs) issued by the Department of Budget and Management in relation to the NTF-ELCAC’s barangay development program, Lacson said the P9.699 billion released so far will fund the development PAPs in 485 of 822 barangay beneficiaries.


The amount represents 59 percent of the total P16.4 billion for 1,374 development programs, projects and activities, according to Lacson.


This includes P9.275 billion for infrastructure; P165.4 million for livelihood/social services; P159.06 million for electrification; P84,525 for agriculture; and P15,500 for COVID-19, he added.


Parlade’s spox post

Meanwhile, Lacson said he is still waiting for the DND leadership to comply with the 1987 Constitution by relieving Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. from his post as spokesperson of the task force “after being assured by a high official of the task force of prompt action on the matter.”


The senator pointed out that Parlade having a post in a civilian body like the NTF-ELCAC violates Paragraph 4 of Article 16, Section 5 of the Constitution.


The said provision states that “no member of the armed forces in the active service shall, at any time, be appointed or designated in any capacity to a civilian position in the Government, including government-owned or controlled corporations or any of their subsidiaries.”


Earlier, Lacson said Parlade has also become a “liability to the overall efforts of the government” as well as to the government’s position on the pending 37 petitions against the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 before the Supreme Court, “mainly due to his careless remarks and flawed interpretation of certain provisions of the law.”


“Having shown that the release of funds complies with the Constitution, when will the defense establishment – including NTF-ELCAC vice chairperson Sec. Hermogenes Esperon Jr., who had said he will review Parlade’s fate as NTF-ELCAC spokesperson – comply with the Constitution as well? I am still waiting for the appropriate response. I just hope the wait won’t be too long,” Lacson said.

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