MANILA - Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Monday said opposition senators would be pushing to realign the P19-billion anti-insurgency fund under the 2021 budget to address more pressing needs like aid for typhoon victims.
The current budget proposal's priorities are "askew" as the security sector gets more funding than programs for housing and social amelioration, Drilon said in an online press conference.
"The minority will propose for a realignment of the anti-insurgency fund... to address the COVID-19 pandemic and the calamities brought about by Rolly," Drilon said, referring to 2020's strongest typhoon that nearly wiped out infrastructure in Catanduanes and other areas in the Bicol region.
"This is the first time our country is confronted with a very heavy responsibility in terms of the pandemic, in terms of the typhoon... The 2021 budget cannot be a business as usual budget," he said.
Funding anti-insurgency efforts should be "postponed" to 2022, Drilon said.
"I am not saying we don't need to support our security sector...
We have to... But the anti-insurgency budget can be postponed for 1 year," he said.
"We need P24 billion to partially address housing needs in 2021 so that it does not become a crisis," he said.
More funding should also be allocated for the COVID-19 vaccine program next year, the Senate Minority Leader said.
"My proposal is to increase the vaccination budget to P16 billion or half of what is required to have a herd or population immunity," he said, noting that the second half of the vaccines may be included in the 2022 budget.
If the anti-insurgency fund is not realigned to other items, Drilon warned that it could be seen as a lumpsum, which is considered as illegal.
"It is a lumpsum appropriation of P19.1 billion. We will have no opportunity to check if in fact these barangays are the ones who need the funds," he said.
"What we are opposing is an absolute discretion and a lumpsum fund that is not legal," he said, adding that he would be more amenable to the budget should it be placed in "areas where it is needed."
"That kind of need will repurpose the anti-insurgency fund," he said.
Last month, Drilon said that the P19-billion anti-insurgency fund supposedly meant to generate livelihood opportunities to discourage poor communities from joining the communist movement could be used to gain political favors for the 2022 presidential elections.
Franklin Drilon, anti-insurgency fund, Senate, 2021 budget, NTF ELCAC, National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict