Press Release
September 29, 2008

Kiko to AFP: 'Don't use Mindanao conflict to justify 2009 budget increase'

Senate Majority Leader and peace advocate Kiko Pangilinan today criticized efforts by the Armed Forces of Philippines (AFP) to use the Mindanao conflict to ask for additional funding.

"If you closely monitor statements coming from the AFP on a daily basis, you will realize that they are getting really close to asking for more funding. They are doing this very subtly by building up the urgency of the conflict in Mindanao," Kiko noted.

An AFP official confirmed that more than half of the budget allocated for the Department of National Defense will go to the Philippine Army's operations against communist rebels and Muslim secessionists. The DND ranks fourth in Malacañang's proposed 2009 budget which is 15% higher than this year's. Top on the list is the Department of Education (P167.9 billion). This is followed by the Department of Public Works and Highway (P120 billion), Department of Interior and Local Government (P61.9 billion), Department of National Defense (P61.5 billion), Department of Agriculture (P39.7 billion), Department of Health (P27.8 billion), Department of Transportation and Communication (P23.6 billion), Department of Agrarian Reform (P16.1 billion), Department of Finance (P13.8 billion).

"Kung susuriing maigi, makikita nating sunud-sunod na naman ang paglabas ng mga artikulo ukol sa pagtindi ng labanan sa Mindanao lalo na't malapit nang magtapos ang Ramadan. Mukhang doble-kayod na talaga ang AFP sa pagpapa-pogi para mabigyan sila ng mas malaking budget. Pero saan ba talaga napupunta ang pera? Recently, the Commission on Audit reported that over P500 million was spent on night-vision gear that cannot be used until additional equipment are acquired. These have been idly sitting in storage since September of last year while the AFP irons out what they called 'legal problems' in buying the missing equipment. If such things are allowed to happen to such large amounts, we should think twice about giving the AFP additional funding. Kung matatandaan natin, maraming mga bintang tungkol sa mga tong-pats na napupunta sa mga matataas na opisyal habang nagtitiis ang mga sundalo sa maliliit na sweldo, pudpod na combat boots at kakulangan sa benepisyo. Whatever happened to allegations made by disgruntled low-ranking officials who have staged desperate calls for attention like the Oakwood Mutiny? If the AFP justifies its need for more funding to benefit soldiers and their families, I would be more supportive. But this is a different matter. Armed conflict in Mindanao should only be viewed as a stop-gap measure. We cannot solve the deep-seated issue through warfare. If we back the AFP's call for intensive military operations, we are merely feeding the anger that has divided us as a nation for generations. The Mindanao conflict has to end not only because it is eating up our budget but also because we need to seek a peaceful end to hostilities. Shame on the AFP for taking advantage of this crisis," emphasized Kiko.

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