INTERIOR Secretary Eduardo Año yesterday downplayed concerns from some quarters about the proposed P16.4-billion budget for the government’s fight against communist insurgency in far-flung areas.
Interviewed over the ANC, Año said the proposed budget for next year is meant to finance needed projects, like farm-to-market roads and schools, in the countryside, and is not a “pork barrel” or intelligence fund.
Some lawmakers have questioned the proposed spending by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, which President Duterte formed in December 2018 under Executive Order 70.
The task force is chaired by the President while its vice chair is National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. The members include Cabinet secretaries, including those of the defense and interior departments.
Among those who questioned the proposed fund for the NTF-ELCAC are Sen. Franklin Drilon and Kabataan party-list Rep. Sarah Elago, who asked if the budget is a lump sum, discretionary fund, or “pork barrel” under the Office of the President. Drilon also expressed apprehension the budget will be used by the administration for the 2022 elections, adding political favors can be done out of this.
“This is not actually the budget of the DILG because they are going to be released directly to the concerned LGUs (local government units) but those who would actually carry out the projects are still the national government agencies,” Año said.
Año said the funds are intended for 822 barangays which have been cleared by the military and the police of communist insurgency from 2016 up to 2019.
“You know, the essence of our fight against insurgents is not only to defeat the NPA (New People’s Army) but to address the roots of the insurgency, the causes of insurgency,” said Año.
Año said the 822 barangays have been neglected in the past, thus enabling the NPA to organize barangay party committees and militia units.
“Part of our clearing effort is actually to resolve issues, concerns of these barangays particularly development,” said Año.
Apart from the construction of farm-to-market roads and school buildings, Año said the budget will also be used for use for water and sanitation systems, health stations, electrification, and even assistance to indigent individuals and families, among others.
“Meaning to say, this is not what you call a pork barrel or a lump sum because projects are itemized and there will be strict monitoring and evaluation of these projects. So these are really for the development of these barangays,” he said.