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Bicam restores NTF-ELCAC budget, P150-M confidential fund for DepEd

Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 1:14 p.m.) — Lawmakers restored the P10-billion proposed funding  for the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict and the P150-million confidential fund of the Department of Education in the bicameral conference committee’s version of the proposed 2023 budget.

Sen. Juan Edgardo "Sonny" Angara and Rep. Zaldy Co (Ako-Bicol Party-list) said this Monday after the panel approved the reconciled version of the proposed P5.268-trillion national budget for next year

"We restored the budget [of NTF-ELCAC], everything. That’s almost 10 billion," said Co, who chairs the House appropriations panel.

Co earlier said the House bicameral panel would work with its counterpart in the Senate to restore the reduced budget of the NTF-ELCAC— which has been active in red-tagging activists and progressibe organizations—as instructed by House Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez and Deputy Senior Majority Leader Ferdinand Alexander "Sandro" Marcos.

The proposed funding of the government’s anti-communist task force was P10 billion, but had been reduced to P5 billion in plenary debates.

Only 2% of NTF-ELCAC’s 2022 projects have been completed or ongoing. The agency also completed less than half of its projects under its so-called Support for Barangay Development Program for 2021.

"Instead of restoring this agency’s budget, the public will be better served with the abolition of the NTF-ELCAC with its funding rechanneled to social service programs," Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said.

Karapatan, among the organizations that the task force has accused of links to communist rebels, said it "is especially objectionable that after all the plenary debates and interpellations done in the open to scrutinize the NTF-ELCAC’s budget, the bicameral conference committee suddenly backpedalled just on the say-so of House Speaker Martin Romualdez and Senior Deputy Majority Leader Sandro Marcos." 

DepEd’s confidential funds

The Senate previously approved the reduced allocation for DepEd’s confidential funds: to just P30 million from P150 million.

"Sa DepEd naibalik iyon. Sa ibang agencies na tinapyas ng Senado di na naibalik," Angara said.

(The fund for DepEd was restored. But the funds of other agencies slashed by the Senate were not restored.)

The education department, headed by Vice President Sara Duterte, earlier said the confidential funds will be used to help fight crimes targeting DepEd personnel and learners.

"That’s the decision of the House leadership to restore the funds because it’s difficult if young people are recruited to take the wrong path," Co said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Confidential funds are for confidential expenses related to surveillance activities in civilian government agencies that are intended to support their mandate or operations.

Similarly, intelligence funds are for intelligence expenses related to information gathering activities of uniformed and military personnel and intelligence practitioners that have direct impact on national security. — Gaea Katreena Cabico with a report from Xave Gregorio 

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CONFIDENTIAL FUNDS

DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION

NATIONAL TASK FORCE TO END LOCAL COMMUNIST ARMED CONFLICT

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