Press Release
September 17, 2020

Drilon urges COA to push through with its special audit of gov't anti-insurgency funds

Citing the lack of transparency on the use of billions of pesos in the government's anti-insurgency program, Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon backed the Commission on Audit's (COA) recent statement that it is considering a special audit on the budget of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

Drilon said "the COA's timely intervention is welcome" in light of serious concerns over the disbursement of funds allotted to the NTF-ELCAC.

"I support a special audit of the funds allotted to the NTF-ELCAC. Given the various kinds of corruption that we've unearthed in the Senate, a COA special audit of all the funds that went to the government's anti-insurgency program administered by the NTF-ELCAC is a welcome development," Drilon said.

Drilon said "the COA should keep an eagle eye on these funds especially with the birth of a new program called Barangay Development Program." The minority chief had earlier said that the huge funds could be used for 2022 elections.

Under the proposed P4.5-trillion 2021 national budget, over P19 billion is allotted to the NTF-ELCAC and of which, P16.4 billion will go to its Barangay Development Program. Through the program, the government plans to distribute P20 million to various barangays that have been cleared of communist rebels, which they can use to build farm-to-market road, school building, water and sanitation system, health stations, ,electrification, as well as for agricultural, livelihood and technical vocational trainings/projects; and assistance to indigent individual or families.

Drilon, however, questioned the manner of disbursements, saying the task force is given too much discretion. Besides, Drilon stressed that the programs cited can be funded through implementing agencies, which is the common practice.

"Why is the fund given directly to local government units this time? Are they capable of implementing a P10-million road program?" he said during the budget hearing.

Drilon doubted the barangays' capacity to implement the projects, adding that the setup by which the projects will be implemented is too complicated as it creates unnecessary bureaucratic layers.

Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado said that for barangays that are not capable of implementing the projects, the municipal or city government can handle the implementation.

Drilon said it complicates the process, adding the barangays will be forced to enter into numerous agreements with implementing agencies.

He said this kind of setup makes it hard to audit the funds and guard against abuses and corruption.

"The money going from one hand to another, we can expect what happens next. This is exactly the kind of setup that allows corruption to thrive. We must avoid this in the budget if we really want to enhance transparency and accountability on the use of funds. Let the agencies handle the projects and let them be accountable for the funds," Drilon said.

The COA cited possible difficulties it may face considering that the funds would come from the budget of the different agencies involved in the program.

Drilon said these difficulties cited by COA should be addressed in the 20201 national budget. He stressed the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) should provide the names of over 820 barangays that stand to benefit from the program.

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