Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon has described the proposal to double the 2022 budget of the government’s anti-communist insurgency task force as an “election giveaway.”
“Let’s not mince words: It’s an election giveaway,” the opposition senator said in a statement on Monday, August 2, regarding the proposed bigger budget for the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) in 2022.
Drilon later told reporters on Tuesday, August 3, that he has sources from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) who disclosed to him an alleged plan to increase the NTF-ELCAC’s budget to as much as P40 billion next year.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año himself earlier said that the national government would “fight” for a P40-billion budget for NTF-ELCAC in 2022, to provide barangay development projects for 2,000 villages cleared of communist influence.
Drilon said a good chunk of NTF-ELCAC’s budget allocations are for “soft” programs for maintenance and other operating expenses, which can easily be manipulated.
“Do not forget that 2022 is an election year. And therefore, these amounts of money available is a campaign kitty, whether you like it or not,” Drilon said.
“The fact is, a good portion of this NTF-ELCAC funds are what we call ‘soft’ [programs], meaning, training expenses, livelihood expenses, and these are easily, these are funds that would be easy to manipulate in terms of beneficiaries,” he added.
Drilon reiterated that he would oppose the passage of the NTF-ELCAC’s budget in 2022 and hoped that other senators would back him up.
He also called on the Commission on Audit (COA) to conduct a special audit on the task force’s funds for 2021.
“We will oppose it. We will expose it. But at the end of the day, it is a decision on the part of the legislators. We cannot go to court on this. It is within the power of Congress to appropriate. The COA should audit this,” Drilon said.
In April, Drilon led 14 other senators in filing a resolution that seeks to “censure” former NTF-ELCAC spokesperson Lieutenant General Antonio Parlade Jr. for his “disrespectful, derogatory, and demeaning” remarks against the legislators.
Parlade had called senators “stupid” when they threatened to defund the NTF-ELCAC in 2021 amid Parlade’s red-tagging of community pantry organizers.
Malacañang is expected to submit the National Expenditure Program or its proposed 2022 national budget to Congress sometime in August, kicking off the budget hearings in both chambers. – Rappler.com