Senate probe on NTF-ELCAC’s operations, fund use sought

Robie de Guzman   •   April 27, 2021   •   315

MANILA, Philippines – A resolution seeking a probe into the operations of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) and utilization of its P19 billion budget has been filed in Senate.

Five senators on Monday filed Senate Resolution No. 707, which seeks to direct appropriate Senate panel to review the task force’s performance and expenditures as government’s anti-communism panel.

The following senators filed the resolution:

  • Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto
  • Senator Joel Villanueva
  • Senator Nancy Binay
  • Senator Grace Poe
  • Senator Sherwin Gatchalian

“We filed this resolution today to hold NTF-ELCAC accountable for its operations, including the baseless red tagging of community pantries and certain individuals,” Villanueva said in a statement.

“It is our responsibility as legislators to ensure that government programs do not harm the people we serve,” he added.

The call for review on NTF-ELCAC’s performance follows the issue involving the task force’s spokesperson Lieutenant General Antonio Parlade Jr. and the Maginhawa community pantry organizers.

“There is a need to draw a line between legitimate government counter-insurgency strategies against internal armed conflicts and threats on the one hand, and the silencing and crippling of innocent civilians with baseless and unsubstantiated claims on the other,” the resolution read.

Senators also stressed the need to review the task force’s use of its budget amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“With the limited resources of the government, especially at this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, and in view of the Constitutional principle that ‘public office is a public trust,’ all government agencies are expected to use their budget judiciously, effectively, and efficiently pursuant to their mandate,” the resolution stated.

Congress is currently on a session break and will resume in May.

Duterte appoints Antonio Parlade to Nat’l Security Council

Robie de Guzman   •   September 9, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has appointed retired military general Antonio Parlade as deputy director general of the National Security Council (NSC), Malacañang said Thursday.

In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque confirmed that the president signed Parlade’s appointment on Sept. 8.

Parlade retired as head of the military’s Southern Luzon Command in July.

“Deputy Director-General Parlade faithfully served the Armed Forces of the Philippines for many years until his retirement from the service,” Roque said.

“We are therefore confident that his length of fruitful service in the military would immensely contribute in the crafting of plans and policies affecting national security,” he added.

Parlade previously served as spokesperson for the government’s Task Force in Ending Local Communist Armed Conflict.

He became controversial for his remarks linking some organizers of community pantries to the communist group. Some senators even called for his resignation and proposed defunding the task force over the issue.

In a separate statement, Parlade thanked Duterte for the “renewed trust and confidence.”

“Another opportunity to continue serving our people in a different capacity. Time to take care of unfinished business,” he said.

Esperon hopes petition to Comelec vs. partylist groups resolved before 2022 polls

Maris Federez   •   August 16, 2021

 

MANILA, Philippines — National Security Adviser Secretary Hermogenes Esperon, Jr. hopes that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) will resolve the two separate petitions filed by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) before the 2022 National Elections.

“Since there will be a registration of parties for the coming elections, we certainly pray and are confident that the COMELEC will resolve these petitions,” Esperon said.

The NTF-ELCAC believes the two petitions they filed before Comelec is a national security issue that needs to be resolved immediately.

The government task force filed separate petitions against Gabriela Women’s Party and Kabataan Partylist groups for the cancellation of their registration in the partylist system for violating the election law and the Constitution.

According to NTF-ELCAC spokesperson Atty. Marlon Bosantog who filed the petitions, they have evidence that Kabataan Partylist is linked to CPP-NPA-NDF.

“We have a witness from the time it was created, to its constitution, to its purpose. We have witnesses that testify the recruitment of the Kabataan Partylist as a funnel of NPA fighters,” Bosantog said.

“We have testimonies to show that the current sitting representative of Kabataan Partylist personally recruited and inform them to go to the mountains and bear arms against the government,” he added.

On August 12, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon testified before Comelec 2nd Division via teleconference regarding the task force’s petition against Gabriela Partylist.

NTF-ELCAC said Gabriela is receiving financial assistance from a foreign government and from non-government organizations which violates the Constitution and Comelec rules.

“And upon further verification by AMLC, we found out that Gabriela has been receiving funds from the Belgian government as well as Belgian NGO as well as other NGO’s in Europe,” Esperon said.

However, Gabriela Partylist Representative Arlene Brosas refuted the allegations, accusing the ELCAC of spreading lies.

“Puro mga kasinungalingan. Kung anu-anong claims po ang mga sinasabi sa atin diyan sa pagkakaso sa atin sa COMELEC dahil ang gusto talaga ay hindi tayo makatakbo,” Brosas said.

Kabataan partylist group, meanwhile, has yet to comment on the issue. —/mbmf (with details from UNTV Correspondent Nel Maribojoc)

PNP chief Eleazar assures unspent 2020 anti-insurgency fund intact

Robie de Guzman   •   July 15, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Guillermo Eleazar on Thursday assured the public that its unused budget for anti-communist insurgency programs remains intact.

In a statement, Eleazar said there is no anomaly in the PNP’s unspent share of the funding as a member agency of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

He explained that the budget was only released in October 2020 due to constraints brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Hindi kapabayaan at lalong hindi anomalya ang dahilan kung bakit hindi masyadong nagastos ang inilaang NTF-ELCAC Fund para sa PNP noong 2020,” the PNP chief said.

“Dahil sa pandemya, na-i-release lamang ang pondong umaabot sa kabuuang P722.955 million sa PNP noong Oktubre 26, 2020 at hindi pa ito puwedeng gastusin lahat sa natitirang dalawang buwan ng 2020 dahil sa mahigpit na alituntunin ng batas sa paggastos ng pondo ng taumbayan,” he added.

Eleazar issued the statement in response to the report of the Commission on Audit (COA), which called the attention of the PNP for its supposed low disbursement of the budget for anti-communist insurgency projects.

The COA report stated that only P86.57 million was spent for its anti-communist programs, an amount that was very low compared to the P722.955 million fund that was released by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) in 2020.

Furthermore, only P240.8 million was obligated, leaving a balance of P482.15 million.

Eleazar, however, stressed that the DBM has already advised the PNP that the NTF-ELCAC Fund is considered as a ‘continuing appropriation’, which may be spent until December 31 this year.

“Makakaasa ang ating mga kababayan na sa aking pamumuno, wala ni isang sentimo sa pondong ito ang mawawala sa korapsyon dahil ito ay buwis ng taumbayan na dapat pangalagaan at hindi pag-interesan,” he said.

The PNP chief also noted other matters pointed out by the State auditor in its report, such as the procurement made by the Bicol Police Regional Office, which were supposedly not supported with documents, and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region Police’s alleged failure to obligate funds due to “non-preparation of project activities.”

“We have acknowledged these findings. We will treat these as lessons learned upang hindi na rin maulit sa mga susunod na budget allocation and utilization,” he said.

“Titingnan natin kung may naging pagkukulang ang ating kapulisan dito,” he added.

Eleazar vowed that the PNP will always observe transparency in the utilization of its budget.

“We want to assure not just the COA but the general public that we are transparent on how funds being allocated to the organization are being utilized and that expenses are well-accounted,” he said.

“Pera ito ng bawat Pilipino kaya’t nararapat lamang na gamitin at i-account ito ng tama,” he added.

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