MANILA - Sen. Risa Hontiveros on Tuesday said a portion of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict's (NTF-ELCAC) P19-billion budget next year should be realigned to rehabilitation and relief efforts in provinces hit by Typhoon Rolly.
About P16 billion of the task force's budget is allocated for its Barangay Development Program, which can be implemented through other executive departments, Hontiveros said during a Senate investigation about the red tagging of celebrities and activists.
"We should not spend such an inordinate amount of time and money on an agency running after ordinary citizens using the communist bogeyman," the senator said.
"It is clear that the billions earmarked for NTF-ELCAC would be better spent on helping Filipinos battered by the typhoon get back on their feet," she said.
Rolly, the strongest typhoon of 2020, destroyed 90 percent of infrastructure in Catanduanes where it first made landfall earlier this week.
National Security Adviser and NTF-ELCAC chair Hermogenes Esperon slammed Hontiveros' proposal, questioning why the senator seemed to be pushing against the development of poor barangays.
"Nagtataka tayo bakit ayaw niyo ma-develop ang mga barangay na yan. Paikot-ikot lang po tayo. I'm sorry," he said.
There are 822 barangays that need to be developed to avoid locals from joining the communist movement, he said.
But Hontiveros underscored that the civilian government can take charge of the rehabilitation and improvement of these villages, instead of coursing the funds through a task force.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon earlier warned that giving a P19-billion fund to a task force instead of a department may prompt the NTF-ELCAC and local leaders who would be receiving funds to "play Gods" in villages.
"Next year is an election year, and here is a secretariat who will be playing God to the barangays," Drilon said in a separate hearing last month.
"When you have a system like this, it can be clearly used for political purposes," he said.