Angara cries ‘pork’ as Senate demands report on NTF-ELCAC fund use

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 6)— Senators on Thursday demanded a report on how the multibillion-peso funding for the country’s anti-communist insurgency body was used over the past three years.

The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) received a total of P19.2 billion in 2020, P16.44 billion in 2021, and P17.1 billion this year. An initial P10 billion is proposed for NTF-ELCAC under the 2023 National Expenditure Plan.

During the Senate finance committee's hearing on the proposed spending plan of the Department of Budget and Management, which releases the funds for NTF-ELCAC projects, Senator Nancy Binay expressed dismay over the lack of details on how these funds were spent.

"How would you justify the additional P10 billion for next year when you don't even know what's going on with these projects," Binay said.

Asked about the specific projects to be funded by the proposed P10-billion NTF-ELCAC budget for next year, Budget Undersecretary Tina Canda said only the barangays that will benefit from it have been identified.

"Unfortunately…the projects are identified only during implementation," Canda said.

Senator Sonny Angara, chairman of the committee on finance, said it was tantamount to pork barrel, the discretionary fund allocated to legislators for their local pet projects which the Supreme Court already declared unconstitutional.

"Yun ang mahirap kasi [That's what's difficult because] isn't that a form of pork barrel that's frowned upon?" Angara said.

"It's a pork barrel based on the definition of the Supreme Court because you know when you pass the GAA (General Appropriations Act) there must be an identification of projects as much as possible," Angara said, noting that Senate Minority Leader Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III agreed with him.

For Senate President Juan Miguel "Migz" Zubiri, the NTF-ELCAC leadership should step up and collate reports from implementing agencies.

He believes it should not be given zero funding or abolished, saying it's necessary to end the five-decades-old armed insurgency.

"There may be reportorial issues but these should be subject to COA (Commission on Audit) findings and investigations or rather, COA audits," Zubiri said. "But overall, I’m in favor of the NTF-ELCAC."