Duterte defends funds for anti-communist task force

Pia Gutierrez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 21 2021 09:26 PM

President Rodrigo Duterte delivers a public address from Davao City on Aug. 30, 2021. Simeon Celi, Presidential Photo/File
President Rodrigo Duterte delivers a public address from Davao City on Aug. 30, 2021. Simeon Celi, Presidential Photo/File

MANILA — The provision of services and public utilities in former rebel strongholds in the countryside is needed to address the root causes of communist insurgency, President Rodrigo Duterte said on Thursday.
 
This, amid criticisms over the billions of pesos in funds allocated to the Barangay Development Program under the controversial National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

Duterte said government recognizes "the importance of grassroots participation of our people, specially at the barangay level" to attain peace . 

"Thus it is imperative that barangay Development Program does not only focus at the ending of local communist armed conflict but also in uplifting the living conditions of the citizens in the geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas," Duterte said in a speech during a meeting of the regional ELCAC task force in Lucena City.

"This can be done through the provision of the much needed services and public utilities such as improved farm to market roads, maski saan, anywhere in the Philippines, 'yan po talaga ang hinihingi ng Pilipino," he continued.

(Those are what Filipinos anywhere in the country demand.)

Some P16 billion has been released to 812 barangays cleared of New People's Army presence as of July to finance projects like farm-to-market roads, water and sanitation, health stations, and school buildings, according to the interior department.

The national government is proposing about P28.1 billion for the Barangay Development Program in 2022, which will benefit 1,406 barangays.

NTF-ELCAC Vice Chairperson and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon earlier said that Duterte is set to resume his visits to the different regions to fast-track the development of conflict-affected and geographically-isolated barangays.

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,” Duterte's spokesman Harry Roque said in August. 

(There is nothing irregular there)

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. 

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