NTF-ELCAC gets higher proposed funds in 2022 despite calls for its abolition

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 23 2021 03:33 PM

MANILA -- The government's anti-communist task force is getting a budget boost in an election year, based on the proposed 2022 national budget, despite allegations it merely engages in red tagging and harassment of government critics since its inception.

The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) is getting a P28.1 billion proposed budget in 2022, up from the P19 billion it got this year. 

In his 2022 budget message, President Rodrigo Duterte, who chairs the NTF-ELCAC, said that the government will continue to address problems arising from the continuing “communist terrorist” activities in the countryside. 

“We have done so much more than any other previous administration to end this 52-year-old conflict and our latest achievement is the designation, by the Anti-terrorism Council, of the National Democratic front as a terrorist group,” Duterte said.

He said the NTF-ELCAC's success now paves the way for the smooth implementation of the Barangay Development Program, which will rehabilitate 1,406 barangays in conflict-affected areas.

Bayan Muna Rep. Ferdinand Gaite said Monday that it is high time that the NTF-ELCAC be abolished, amid allegations that it mishandled funds.

"Mula sa pagkuha ng napakalaking generals pork barrel na P16.4 na Barangay Development Fund, paglagak nito sa mga balwarte ng administrasyon lalo na sa Davao City, hanggang sa pagkuha ng P160 milyon sa Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), at mahigit isang milyong piso mula sa National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), makikita na umaaktong akala mo'y superbody itong task force na ito," Gaite said. 

"As it is, the NTF-ELCAC is essentally like a civilian-military junta manipulating taxpayer's money for their ill intents," said the progressive lawmaker. 

"Mas mabuti pa ay i-abolish na talaga ang NTF-ELCAC na ito at ilaan na lang ang bilyong-bilyong pondo dito sa direktang Covid response ng pamahalaan tulad ng bakuna, ayuda, libreng mass testing at dagdag na contact tracers," he added. 

Meanwhile, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), which handles the country's police force, gets a P250.4 billion in budget in 2022 as proposed. Of this, P48.1 billion will go to the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) and the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP).

The Philippine Anti-Illegal Drugs Strategy will get P2.5 billion, while the Barangay Drug Clearing Program of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) will get P286 million. 

The Department of National Defense gets P222 billion, of which P35 billion will go to the Revised AFP Modernization Program. 

An allotment of P929 million will go to the operations of the Philippine Army's 11th Infrantry Division in Jolo, Sulu, while P348 million will go the Navy for the Balabac Port Facility in Palawan to further boost Philippine operations in the West Philippine Sea.

The Department of Budget and Management submitted the 2022 National Expenditure Program to the House of Representatives Monday.

Lawmakers will start tackling the proposed budget on Thursday.

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