Defunding the administration’s legacy project

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The fund’s original intention was to wage war on the Left before the 2022 elections. The anti-communist project was proposed by National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon J., a retired Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief.

The national budget of the NTF-ELCAC for 2021 is P19 billion.

According to Lieutenant General Antonio Parlade, Jr., the task force spokesperson, the same fund is intent on defraying the cost of ending the communist insurgency, claiming that the same funding will support the Barangay Development Program, emphasizing the Duterte Administration’s priority to end a 50-year-old rebellion in the country.

The fund is such a generous appropriation as Duterte’s legacy project, allowing the task force to bring the campaign down to communities by releasing up to P20 million in livelihood programs to so-called “infiltrated” barangays.

However, funding a task force to achieve what previous administrations have failed to do: defeat the rebels and paralyze all groups sympathetic to the armed struggle —- is unlikely to receive the same level of support when the Senate reconvenes for budgetary deliberations.

Bayan Muna Rep. Isagani Zarate has referred to the fund as a “pork barrel” and sees it as a misguided appropriation in light of the ongoing economic crisis and the effects of the ongoing health pandemic.

During the 2020 budget debate, critics raised the possibility that the NTF-ELCAC fund would be used to crack down on government critics, not just those on the left, but also individuals and groups such as those in the media.

Parlade has also stated publicly that the fund will be used to fuel a political war known as “propaganda.” And he promised to ‘destroy’ if one of them happens to be a target of the project.

Is the red-tagging of community pantry organizers, however, part of the funded ‘political war’ strategy?

This latest incident has enraged ordinary citizens, while a number of senators have expressed disappointment and called for the defunding of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) in the aftermath of the alleged red-tagging of community pantry organizers.

Disgusted by Parlade’s most recent statement, in which he compared community pantries to “an apple that Satan had offered to Eve,” Senators have promised to review the task force budget, claiming that “it’s not worth spending hard earned taxpayer’s money” on such propaganda.

While some Senators have expressed interest in defunding the NTF-ELCAC, Sen. Bong Go has stated that doing so would “waste all of the progress made” by the campaign project. He also stated that the P16 billion budget support for the Barangay Development Program will be used to fund projects in 822 barangays across the country that have been cleared of insurgency.

While Sen. Go claims that defunding NTF-ELCAC will have serious consequences for the government’s efforts to end the country’s 50-year rebellion, Parlade has remained unapologetic for the shambles his “statements” have caused. As a result, it has been attributed largely to recent public dissent when Parlade made his labeling stroke against independent community pantry initiatives.

The NTF-ELCAC spokesperson has repeatedly reverberated that the task force will promote “good governance down to the barangay level so that services reach the poorest and most isolated Filipinos”. 

Has anything changed along the way with this mantra? Or, are the campaign’s recent attacks on community pantries just another way of saying that anything community-based is left-initiated? 

Indeed, it is high time to review such a campaign and be guided carefully as to which direction it is aiming, as taxpayers’ money is so important nowadays, and thus, mushrooming community pantries have become so important.

Be informed
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