Angara rejects abolition of NTF-ELCAC despite lack of accounting

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 12 2021 11:20 AM | Updated as of Nov 12 2021 11:26 AM

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MANILA - Sen. Sonny Angara rejected Friday a proposal to abolish the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict for failing to comprehensively report how it spent its P19.3 billion budget for 2021.

"No, I don’t think so. I think it’s way too early to make that judgment for the NTF. The NTF-ELCAC only started to receive budget in 2020 and a very small one at that for a nationwide program. It was scaled up in 2021," Angara, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said Friday.

The agency was given a budget of P1 billion in 2020, and P19.3 billion this year.

"It’s a good concept because you’re helping poor barangays who are once under the control of insurgents…I think it’s still a good idea…What caused the rebel returnees, former rebels to return to the fold at magbagong buhay at di na maging part of the armed struggle is to have opportunities available to them, nararamdaman nila yung gobyerno sa kanilang lugar," he said.

"The concept is really hard to argue with. The battle against insurgency is never a battle just of armed struggle. It’s also a battle for the hearts and minds of people," he added.

Some P24 billion will be slashed from NTF-ELCAC's 2022 budget which was originally set at P30.45 billion. Angara said this was because "there was no report forthcoming" about how its current funding was spent.

"The senators were not satisfied with that kind of accounting, how the funds were spent. We’d like to know what projects were funded because it’s a lump sum and the local government units would pick whether they want roads, water systems. We don’t know because we don’t have any information on these projects," he said.

"We want to see a good execution of a good concept," he added.

He said he has spoken to National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, vice-chairman of the NTF-ELCAC, about the senators' position. He said the former military general committed to comply in the coming days.

"There are 3 or 4 weeks left in the budget process for the year before we actually finalize the budget to be given…It could go either way, depending on how they’ll justify. I told Sec. Esperon, give us a good accounting because it’s a new project. We cannot just give you huge amounts of money and you have no accomplishment to speak of. We do that for all government agencies," said Angara.

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