‘Not justified’: Palace nixes proposal to defund NTF-ELCAC

Robie de Guzman   •   April 22, 2021   •   714

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang on Thursday opposed calls of some lawmakers to defund the government’s counterinsurgency task force.

In a Palace briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the proposal of some senators to defund the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) is “unjustified” since it uses its funds to help develop local communities.

“Ang pagkakaalam ko po yung pondo ng ELCAC ay para po sa mga proyekto na magbibigay ng asenso at progreso sa mga lugar na mayroon pang rebelde” he said.

“So sa akin po, hindi naman po justified yan,” he added.

Roque said the task force should be allowed to perform its duties as long as there is a clear policy for its actions.

Some senators issued the call after NTF-ELCAC’s spokesperson Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. said that they are checking the background of community pantry organizers following reports that communist groups are using these initiatives to spread their propaganda against the government.

Roque also reiterated that President Rodrigo Duterte supports the community pantry initiatives and that such effort should continue to help those in need amid the coronavirus pandemic.

When asked if the Palace will restrain Parlade from issuing any more statements against community pantry organizers, Roque said he would reach out to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on the matter since Parlade reports to him.

LGUs urge Senate to revert NTF-ELCAC budget to original amount

Maris Federez   •   November 22, 2021

 

MANILA, Philippines — Several governors and mayors expressed dismay over the Senate’s decision to slash the budget of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) that is supposed to be allotted to the government’s anti-insurgency program.

The Senate Committee on Finance cut the budget of the NTF-ELCAC from Php28-billion to only Php4-billion.

Bohol Governor Arthur Yap said he finds questionable the Senate panel’s statement that the NTF-ELCAC’s fund only duplicates that of programs being funded by local government units.

Yap insisted that the NTF-ELCAC programs in the remote areas, particularly the Barangay Development Program, are proven effective.

“Hindi po maintindihan ‘yong statement na duplication. Mayroon bang government agency na into infrastructure at development na bumababa sa barangay na together with mayors, provincial governor with Philippine Army and PNP together with local officials consulting with the people?” Yap said.

Yap added that the farm-to-market road projects of the NTF ELCAC made it possible for the government to reach those in the remote areas, halting the recruitment activities of the New Peoples Army (NPA).

Davao Oriental Governor Nelson Dayanghirang, meanwhile, said that if the task force’s budget on the development of barangays is cut, its anti-insurgency projects will be delayed.

This, he fears, will pave the way for the return of the NPA in their area.

Ako naman po ay nakikiusap na huwag naman ninyong ipagdamot ang kapayapaan para sa bansang Pilipinas. Huwag naman nating ipagdamot ang mga pangangailangan na matagal nang minimithi ng ating mga kababayan na maangkin nila,” Dayanghirang said.

Eastern Samar Governor Ben Evardone, in the meantime, stated that lawmakers must not only focus their attention on COVID-19 response but also on insurgency which has long been the country’s major problem.

“Pero kung ‘yong pondo ay tatapyasin talaga at ilipat sa COVID para nga hindi sila maging masama sa tao […] Itong pandemic ng insurgency ay matagal na kasya COVID, sa totoo lang. More than 50 years we have been battling this major problem,” Evardone said. /mbmf (from the report of UNTV Correspondent Dante Amento)

Presidential aspirants tackle Phl major issues

Maris Federez   •   November 22, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Presidential candidates for the 2022 national and local elections have visited several places in the country over the weekend, laying down their opinions and proposed actions on major issues in the country.

On Saturday, Senator Panfilo ‘Ping’ Lacson flew to Pag-asa Island amid the tension in the West Philippine Sea.

He was accompanied by senatorial aspirant and former Philippine National Police chief General Guillermo Eleazar.

Lacson led the Philippine flag-raising activities on the island.

The Senator insists that the Philippines needs to forge alliances with big countries and eventually take back the islands that have been claimed by others.

“Hindi natin kayang mag-isa. Mag-strengthen tayo ng alliances with the other militarily strong countries na mga binanggit ko kanina nang sa ganoon, unti-unti ma-repossess natin ‘yung halos daan-daang nawawala sa atin,” Lacson said.

Meanwhile, Manila Mayor Francisco ‘Isko Moreno’ Domagoso went to Payatas, Quezon City and visited the Material Recovery Facility in the area.

There, Mayor Isko promised to provide housing to the poor.

“Kapag ako ay sinuwerte, kapag akoy sinuwerte kung ano ang ginawa ko sa Maynila na pabahay, ganun din ang gagawin ko sa buong bansa,” Domagoso said.

Vice President Leni Robredo, on the other hand, had been going around Quezon province in the past few days.

Robredo promised to address the alleged injustices that coconut farmers have been experiencing and vowed to distribute among them the controversial Coco Levy Fund.

The team of former Senator Bongbong Marcos and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, meanwhile, went around Tagum City in Davao del Norte over the weekend.

The BBM-Sara tandem was with Lakas-CMD President House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez and other members of the House of Representatives.

Presidential Leody de Guzman, on the other hand, held a dialogue with officials and fisherfolks in Barangay Bayod in Los Baños, Laguna.

In a separate statement, de Guzman lamented the suspension of the International Criminal Court’s investigation on the Duterte Administration’s war on drugs.

“Pero naniniwala ako na hindi pa dapat magsaya si Pangulong Duterte dahil magpapatuloy ang paniningil ng mga magulang at kamag-anak at ng sambayang Pilipino,” De Guzman said.

Other presidential aspirants, senators Manny Pacquiao and Christopher ‘Bong’ Go, did not have any reported public engagements over the weekend.

However, Senator Go released a statement opposing the cut on the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) budget.

Go said the task force has a big role in the lasting peace and order in the remote areas of the country.

“Napakalaki ng papel ng NTF-ELCAC sa hangarin nating magkaroon ng pangmatagalang kapayapaan, lalo na sa mga kapos sa buhay at nasa malalayong komunidad sa bansa. Kung kaya’t kamakailan ay tumutol ako sa pagtapyas ng budget nito,” Go said. —/mbmf (from the report of UNTV Correspondent Nel Maribojoc)

DILG, provinces urge Senate to restore NTF-ELCAC’s P28B budget for barangay dev’t program

Robie de Guzman   •   November 16, 2021

 MANILA, Philippines – The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the League of Provinces of the Philippines have appealed to the Senate to restore the P28.1 billion Support to Barangay Development Program (SBDP) proposed by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) for NPA-cleared barangays in the 2022 budget.

In a statement issued on Monday, DILG Secretary Eduardo Año said the program is “a game-changer in our battle to end Communist Terrorism in the country.”

“Unti-unti nang nararamdaman ng mga naninirahan sa mga barangay na sakop ng SBDP ngayong taon ang tunay na kahulugan ng pagbabago at pagkalinga ng gobyerno na hindi nila naramdaman sa nakaraan dahil sa mga Komunistang Terorista,” Año said.

The DILG chief noted that “there is now momentum in the fight against Communist terrorism and slashing the P28.1 Billion will send a wrong signal to the Local Government Units who have been expecting these development projects next year.”

“We must remember that the battle against the CTGs is not just a battle of arms, it’s also a battle for the hearts and minds of our people,” he said.

The League of Provinces of the Philippines (LPP) echoed Año’s appeal.

During its 8th General Assembly, the LPP said it passed Resolution No. 2021-009 supporting President Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-insurgency program and urging the Senate to approve in full the proposed Support to the Barangay Development Program in the 2022 General Appropriations Bill.

“The full and continued implementation of the BDP needs to be pursued in order to bring about and sustain progress and development in these identified conflict-affected barangays that urgently need government support and assistance,” said LPP President and Marinduque Governor Presbiterio Velasco, Jr.

“The proposed projects under the SBDP which were identified by the community residents themselves, represent their collective aspiration towards genuine peace and development,” Año said.

The DILG Secretary stressed that cutting the proposed NTF-ELCAC budget next year will deprive these remote barangays of development and will make them vulnerable once more to the CTGs at a time when we have already gained significant strides in our whole-of-nation approach to defeat communist terrorism.

“Mahigit 50 taon nang naghihirap at napag-iwanan ang ating mga kababayan na nakatira sa mga bulubundukin at malalayong lugar na dati ay pinamumugaran ng mga communist terrorist groups (CTGs),” he said.

“Nakikiusap po tayo sa ating mga Senador na huwag ipagkait ang pagkakataong maramdaman nila ang pagmamalasakit ng gobyerno at malasap ang tunay pagbabago,” he added.

Año said that the P16.44-billion development projects under the SBDP this year are in full swing in the 822 insurgency-cleared barangays with several projects already completed and others in different phases of implementation.

Of the 2,318 SBDP projects funded this year, 19 are already completed, 557 are undergoing implementation, 783 are under procurement, and 959 are under pre-procurement.

Among the completed SBDP projects are livelihood projects in Barangay Mount Diwata, Monkayo, Davao de Oro; lot purchase for housing in Barangays Don Mariano Marcos, Tagbua, and Calapagan, Lupon, Davao Oriental; distribution of seed capital to poor farmers in Barangay Caduha-an, Cadiz City, Negros Occidental; livelihood project in Sangab, Maco, Davao de Oro; installation of 50 units LED solar street lights with solar panel in Barangay Darapuay, Bansalan, Davao del Sur; and purchase of rice harvesters in Carataya, Mahunodhunod, Putian and San Antonio in Cuartero, Capiz.

“Based on the current status of SBDP projects, we are expecting that majority of them will be completed by the first quarter of 2022 with some spill-over projects to be completed by the second quarter,” Año said.

He explained that some of the projects are still under procurement on the LGU level because it takes about 1-2 months for the preparation of pre-procurement documents like Detailed Engineering Design (DED) from the implementing local government units (LGUs), Certificate of Pre-condition (CP) or Certificate of Non-Coverage (CNC) from the National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP), and Notice of Authority to Debit Account Issued (NADAI) from the Bureau of Treasury (BTr).

The DILG Chief maintained that completing these documentary requirements were even more challenging with the stringent COVID-19 restrictions as another 4 to 5 months are needed to complete the procurement process in compliance with the Republic Act (RA) 9184.

He added that actual implementation of the SBDP projects on the ground takes about 1 to 4 months to complete depending on the nature of the project with non-infra projects usually completed faster than infra projects like roads and buildings.

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