MANILA - Senator Panfilo Lacson said Tuesday he would look into the proposed P28 billion budget for 2022 of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, which he had defended in previous years.
Lacson made the remark after the NTF-ELCAC "bullied" him for alleging that its funds were being misused in Mindanao.
"Mga bully eh, di ba? I had been defending the budget of NTF-ELCAC for so many years. Just because meron kaming nasilip na probable misuse in the implementation of the funds of NTF-ELCAC, biglang galit na," he told ANC's Headstart.
(They're bullies. I had been defending the budget of NTF-ELCAC for so many years. Just because I found probable misuse in the implementation of the funds of NTF-ELCAC, they're mad at me now.)
"They have been insulting me, calling me names. What happened to those years when I was defending and even augmenting their budget?"
The senator added that the distribution of funds were not equal in areas cleared of insurgency.
"In Mindanao for example, meron binigyang more than P1 billion, wala namang surrenderees. Meron namang may surrenderees, pero walang binigay yung NTF-ELCAC. Why is there disparity between two local government units - yung isa known ally ng Palasyo, yung isa hindi?" he said.
(In Mindanao for example, there's a local government without surrenderees that received P1 billion, while there's another which has surrenderees but did not receive anything. Why is there disparity between two local government units - one is a known ally of Malacañang and the other is not?)
"Now, I'm no longer a sponsor and I will participate even in the plenary in scrutinizing the humongous--I think it's P28 billion now."
The task force is getting a budget boost in an election year despite allegations it merely engages in red tagging and harassment of government critics since its inception.
The NTF-ELCAC's proposed 2022 budget is higher than the P19 billion it got this year.
"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," Bayan Muna Rep. Ferdinand Gaite had said.
In his 2022 budget message, President Rodrigo Duterte, who chairs the NTF-ELCAC, said 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.