MANILA — Malacañang said on Tuesday terrorism defied the COVID-19 pandemic, which is why government sought some P36 billion in intelligence, confidential and counter-insurgency funds next year, despite the raging fight against the pandemic.
The proposed 2022 national budget submitted to Congress this week included some P8.6 billion for intelligence and confidential expenses, on top of P28.1 billion for the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).
“Patuloy pa rin po ang banta ng mga terorista, ng ISIS, ng mga komunista, ng mga drug lords, kahit po may pandemya,” said Palace spokesman Harry Roque.
(The threat of terrorists, the ISIS, communists, drug lords continue, despite the pandemic.)
“Hindi naman po ibig sabihin may pandemya, tigil na muna ang terorismo. D’yan po napupunta ang intel fund,” he said in a press briefing.
(It does not mean that since there is a pandemic, terrorism will temporarily stop. That's where the intel funds go.)
Part of the funds also goes to the families of slain soldiers and police officers, Roque said.
As for the NTF-ELCAC, he said, “Maski po and’yan ang pandemya, alam natin na ang kagutuman ang dahilan ng pag-aalsa.”
(Though the pandemic is there, we know that hunger is the reason for rebellion.)
The task force’s projects involve livelihood and development, which could also help spur the economy, added the official.
The NTF-ELCAC earlier faced calls to be scrapped, following its red-tagging of female celebrities, some lawmakers, and Senate workers, among others.
Recently, the Commission on Audit said the transfer of funds to the task force from the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) was “highly questionable for lack of authority and legal basis.”
“Wala pong irregular doon,” argued Roque.
The funds were not transferred, but rather, downloaded to the regional office from the national headquarters, the Palace official said, quoting Interior Secretary Eduardo Año.
“Ito raw po ay (this is) authorized under the General Appropriations Act of 2020,” he added.