Teachersâ group: Anti-communist task force funds should go into education instead
In this Sept. 4, 2020, photo, teacher-unionists under the Alliance of Concerned Teachers stage a protest rally in front of the House of Representatives in Batasan, Quezon City, calling for safe, accessible, and quality education in the country amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The STAR/Michael Varcas
Teachers’ group: Anti-communist task force funds should go into education instead
(Philstar.com) - October 28, 2020 - 12:43pm

MANILA, Philippines — Condemning what it called Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr.'s "red-tagging spree," the Alliance of Concerned Teachers on Wednesday urged Congress to instead "put meaningful use" to the P19.1-billion proposed budget for the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict. 

ACT is among the leftist organizations that Parlade and the NTF-ELCAC have accused of being "legal fronts" for communist rebels.

“Looks like General Parlade and the NTF-ELCAC is desperately trying to prove their relevance through indiscriminate red-tagging to bag the proposed 3000% increase in their budget next year. We can only watch in disgust knowing that taxpayers’ money pay for this madness while our teachers and students in distance learning are deprived of enough government subsidy,” ACT Secretary-General Raymond Basilio said. 

Basilio was referring to Parlade's recent slew of unsubstantiated accusations hurled against celebrities such as Angel Locsin, Catriona Gray, and Liza Soberano as well as local government leaders Manila City Mayor Isko Moreno and Cavite Gov. Jonvic Remulla. 

“Gen. Parlade has so much to gain from the looming scandalous increase in the NTF-ELCAC budget next year, as at least 80% of it are pork barrel funds for the generals. Apparently the general is putting his mouth where his pocket is,” Basilio added. 

'NTF-ELCAC budget could fund teaching expense allowance for public school teachers'

"About P16 billion of the P19.1 billion proposed 2021 NTF-ELCAC budget are discretionary funds for the generals" he said, adding the amount is more than enough to provide all 900,000 teachers in public schools with a teaching expense allowance of P15,000 per year.

This would reimburse their out-of-pocket expenses which they undertake just to make education continuity possible, Basilio said. 

The P16 billion referenced by Basilio falls under the Barangay Development Program through which the government plans to distribute P20 million to barangays that authorities will certify as being cleared of communist rebels.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon last month flagged the manner of disbursements for the funds, saying the task force is given too much discretion.  He also urged the Commission on Audit to push through with its special audit of anti-insurgency funds. 

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. on Wednesday vehemently denied allegations that the Barangay Development Program funds are a form of pork barrel. "Our troops work hard to clear the barangays. The municipalities and barangays to worked hard to clear these [areas]," he said in Filipino during a virtual briefing. 

“At the time of the pandemic, when our main concerns are treating the sick and putting food on the table, when we struggle to uphold education to mitigate the pandemic’s long-term impact to the nation, it is plainly incomprehensible why the Duterte government is prioritizing instead a program that fuels political strife,” Basilio said. 

While acknowledging that the pandemic is a "clear and present danger," Esperon cited President Rodrigo Duterte who, in June, said that communist rebels are the "number one threat" to the country.

At the time, Malacañang walked back the chief executive's remark, saying that Duterte was referring to the top threat in terms of national security and that the COVID-19 pandemic is still "number one." 

'Teachers' group targeted in red-tagging campaign'

ACT's secretary general said that the group has also been the subject of NTF-ELCAC's campaign, having been included in the list of organizations named as "communist terrorist" during a webinar hosted by the task force for Cavite State University students.

"[V]ideos and photos accusing ACT and its leaders of the same lately proliferated in Facebook troll pages and teachers’ group chats," Basilio said. 

"NTF-ELCAC’s malicious and nonsensical red-tagging tirade holds no value to our teachers. Where are the laptops and the internet allowance that we need for distance teaching? W[h]ere are the funds for module printing and safe schools? Where are the health protection mechanisms and benefits for our education frontliners?” he added. — Bella Perez-Rubio 

NTF-ELCAC RED-TAGGING
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