Press Release
November 21, 2021

Drilon defends huge slash on NTF-ELCAC budget

Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon defended the Senate Committee on Finance's decision to slash to P4 billion the funding for the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) in 2022.

The veteran senator also took exception to Senator Bato Dela Rosa's tirades against those who opposed NTF-ELCAC.

The former Philippine National Police chief of President Duterte reportedly called critics of NTF-ELCAC "bwisit" in a radio interview Sunday.

"Nakakalungkot yung ginagamit ng ating kasamahan sa senado na 'bwisit'. Ito po ay debate para sa kapakanan ng taumbayan at tinitingnan natin kung paano ginastos ang pera ng taumbayan," Drilon said in an interview with radio DZBB on Sunday.

"Ako, kumokontra ako. Hindi naman siguro ako bwisit. Ito po, huwag na nating dalhin sa personalan, pag-usapan na lang natin," he added.

"Stop the name-calling. It will not get us anywhere. It is an insult to the senators and the institution we belong to. Let's stick to the issue," Drilon advised the neophyte senator in a separate statement.

Drilon disputed claims of Dela Rosa that the opposition is using the NTF-ELCAC for politics.

"Hindi ito pamumulitika. Ito ay pangangalaga ng pera ng taumbayan," Drilon said. "Walang pamumulitika. Ito ay tamang paggamit ng pera ng taumbayan."

Drilon, whose term ends next year, has been vocal about his criticisms of the government's anti-insurgency programs since 2020, calling the program another "pork barrel" of the Executive.

Drilon enumerated a number of reasons why he is opposing the NTF-ELCAC and supporting the decision of the Senate Finance Committee to slash its funding to P4 billion from P28 billion. This year's funding of NTF-ELCAC is P19 billion and of which, P16.2 billion went to Barangay Development Fund.

He noted that the funding for much-needed COVID-19 booster shots remains unfunded in the proposed General Appropriations Act. The proposed national budget allocated P45 billion for the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines under the unprogrammed fund.

The senator said it is best to rechannel the funds in support of the government's pandemic response such as the procurement of COVID-19 booster shots and provision for ayuda.

There is also no funds for the ayuda, he noted.

In addition, Drilon emphasized that the barangays are beneficiaries of regular programs implemented by line agencies and they stand to benefit as well from increased internal revenue allotments next year.

"Sa akin po, sinusuportahan ko ang decision ni Sen. Angara. Ang proyekto sa barangay, maraming pwedeng magbigay diyan: DA, DOH, DPWH, DSWD. Nakakalat sa iba't ibang ahensya. Ang lumalabas na itong NTF-ELCAC na lang ang maitutulong sa barangay, hindi po tama iyan," Drilon said.

Drilon also pointed out that only 26 out of 2,318 approved projects supposedly for barangays cleared of insurgency were finished.

Drilon also criticized the agencies' utilization of their NTF-ELCAC funds, specifically the Philippine National Police. The PNP got over P1 billion allocation for NTF-ELCAC this year. However, when PNP was pressed for details of their utilization of their NTF-ELCAC allocation, they could not give a concrete and believable explanation and only cited that they had conducted about 13 million activities in about 10 months.

Drilon found the PNP's claim ridiculous and unbelievable.

"That's 1,805 activities per hour! Has PNP become a 'super body' or 'superman'? It is a mystery to me how they were able to do it," Drilon had recently said.

The Senate chief fiscalizer also cited a huge disconnect in the way the Department of National Defense and the Armed Forces of the Philippines are left out in the implementation of the country's anti-insurgency programs.

Drilon could not believe that the AFP, which is tasked to fight insurgency, was only given P199,000 from NTF-ELCAC allocation, while the PNP received a whopping P1 billion.

"That's unusual. "I cannot believe that the agency in charge of our internal security will get only P199,000. I don't think it's fair and equitable," Drilon said during the plenary debates on the budget of the DND's proposed 2022 budget.

Lastly, Drilon recalled how senators questioned why NTF-ELCAC gave P400 million toPanabo City in Davao Del Norte alone while the rest of Davao del Norte only received P60 million.

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