Senator seeks full accounting of anti-communist task force's P19 billion funds
Composite photo shows NTF-ELCAC spokespersons Communications Usec. Lorraine Badoy and Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr.
The STAR/File photo | News5 YouTube Channel, screen grab

Senator seeks full accounting of anti-communist task force's P19 billion funds

Bella Perez-Rubio (Philstar.com) - April 23, 2021 - 3:52pm

MANILA, Philippines — Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Thursday night reiterated his longstanding concern that the government's red-tagging task force may be using its multibillion-peso funds in aid of the upcoming elections in 2022. 

Drilon urged Senate leadership to compel the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict to submit a quarterly report to Congress on the utilization of its P19 billion budget for 2021. 

"These are not small funds. Magagamit sa pulitika iyan (That can be used for politics),” Drilon said during an interview with One News' "The Chiefs." 

He added that the 2021 General Appropriations Act requires the task force's implementing agencies to submit "quarterly reports on the utilization of funds and physical accomplishments" to the Office of the President, the Department of Budget and Management, and both chambers of Congress. 

This comes amid calls from several senators to defund the task force which recently spurred outrage by red-tagging community pantry organizers. 

Senators have also renewed their call on the Department of National Defense to dismiss Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. as NTF-ELCAC spokesman because his appointment to the civilian post while still an active member of the military, as chief of its Southern Luzon Command, violates the 1987 Constitution. 

'NTF-ELCAC's 2021 budget can be redirected to aid, purchase of vaccines' 

While lawmakers will have to wait until next year to attempt to defund the task force, Drilon said President Rodrogo Duterte should realign its remaining funds for 2021 to the government's pandemic response. 

"There is authority under the law to use these funds for vaccinations and for indigent individuals," Drilon said.

"If the president is minded to, he has the full authority under the law to realign these funds from 822 so-called cleared barangays to the much needed and urgent ayuda to residents affected in the NCR Plus areas."  

Drilon was referring to the P16.4 billion budget for the NTF-ELCAC's Barangay Development Program, the manner of disbursement for which he flagged last year as affording the task force too much discretion. 

However, it seems unlikely that Duterte would choose to realign these funds as he created the task force himself in 2018 and pushed for a surge in its 2021 funds even as the pandemic raged on. 

Duterte's spokesman Harry Roque on Thursday defended the task force, saying calls to defund it from lawmakers were not justified. 

'Useless task force' 

In a statement released Friday, rights group Karapatan reiterated its call for the dismissal of Parlade and Communications Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy, NTF-ELCAC's other red-tagging spokesperson, as well as the abolition of the task force. 

"Its policy and mandate is as clear as the people manning the task force - former generals, disinformation peddlers, and delusional opportunists," Karapatan said. "Its policy and mandate is as clear as its outputs aka dangerous, harmful rumor-mongering - killings, arrests and detention, threats, disappearances, criminalization of social justice causes and good deeds."  

"These terrible two should be made accountable, yes, but let us not forget that the President and Esperon, the chair and vice chair of the NTF-ELCAC, are spelling out the policies of this atrocious and useless task force."  

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