Over P10 billion released to red-tagging task force amid calls to realign its budget — senator

Bella Perez-Rubio - Philstar.com
Over P10 billion released to red-tagging task force amid calls to realign its budget  â senator
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

MANILA, Philippines — The government this year has already released billions of pesos to its controversial anti-communist task force, a senator said Tuesday, even as Filipinos enduring one of the world's longest pandemic lockdowns wait for financial aid. 

The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict has already received P10.68 billion of its P19 billion budget for 2021, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said, citing data from the Department of Budget and Management. 

Over P7 billion was released to the NTF-ELAC in April when lawmakers were calling for its budget to be realigned to the government's pandemic response over its spokespersons' incessant red-tagging of community pantry organizers. Another P3.14 billion was released on March 24. 

Meanwhile, Drilon noted, a proposal to give P8,000 in aid to private-sector workers is in flux due to a lack of funding. A Bayanihan 3 measure which would give emergency cash subsidies to vulnerable households and replenish the government's dwindling pandemic funds, is also pending due to uncertainties over available funds, he added. 

READ: Duterte urged: Call for special Congress session to pass 'Bayanihan 3'

"Why do you seem to be in a hurry to release the budget? Why is the Marawi rehabilitation fund coming out so slowly? Where will this P10.68 billion be used?” the senator asked in Filipino. 

A bulk of the NTF-ELAC's budget, P16.4 billion, goes to its Barangay Development Program — the manner of disbursement for which Drilon has flagged on several occasions as affording the task force too much discretion. 

The senator also reiterated his call on the task force to submit a quarterly report on the utilization of its funds to Congress as mandated by the 2021 General Appropriations Act. 

“Where did the P10.68 billion go? What barangay? What city or town has benefited from this? In the spirit of transparency, let us publish the data and inform the public," he said.

The following is a table documenting fund releases to the NTF-ELCAC from March 24 to April 29 sourced by Drilon's office from the DBM website



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