Palace defends anti-insurgency funding
Bayan Muna Rep. Ferdinand Gaite recently accused the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict of wanting to control the release of public funds worth P20 million per barangay.
The STAR/Felicer Santos, file
Palace defends anti-insurgency funding
Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - September 15, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang yesterday defended the funding of the government’s anti-insurgency programs, which have been labeled by militant lawmakers as “pork.”

Bayan Muna Rep. Ferdinand Gaite recently accused the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) of wanting to control the release of public funds worth P20 million per barangay.

He claimed the funds, intended for development programs in various provinces, are “pork barrel”– a term for congressional allocations since declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

“From what I understand, these projects are related to the anti-insurgency campaign of our government and that’s a valid expenditure. In any case, it’s not for the Makabayan bloc alone to question it,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said, referring to the group of militant lawmakers.

“I hope they will get the support of their colleagues in Congress so the entry can be removed (from the budget). But as of now, that is the budget proposal coming from the executive and we bow to the wisdom of Congress not just to the Makabayan bloc,” he added.

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. has described as “irresponsible” the allegations of Gaite, saying it “seeks to undermine the integrity of the administrative mechanisms and audit capabilities of the entire bureaucracy.”

Esperon, NTF-ELCAC vice chairman, claimed the P16.1-billion budget allocated to the task force is earmarked for barangay development programs that are to be implemented in conflicted and geographically isolated barangays.

The task force, he added, has identified 1,431 barangays which have been cleared and are ripe for government intervention.

He said the funds would be sourced from the budgets of agencies leading the projects while the implementation would be handled by local chief executives.

“The NTF-ELCAC shall act as a conduit between national government agencies and the corresponding local government units; ensuring that these development programs are coordinated through the respective regional, provincial, municipal and barangay task forces,” Esperon said in a statement issued last week.

Roque also defended the P4-billion intelligence fund requested by the Office of the President, which has been described by Sen. Panfilo Lacson as “a bit too much.” – Delon Porcalla, Neil Jayson Servallos, Helen Flores

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