Senator Marcos wants DSWD's PAMANA program under anti-communist task force's helm

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 20) — Senator Imee Marcos on Wednesday suggested that the Department of Social Welfare and Development's (DSWD) program for conflict-affected areas in the country be integrated with the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

Sen. Marcos noted that DSWD's Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) program almost has the same objectives and goals with the NTF-ELCAC.

"Bakit hindi na lang ilagay sa NTF-ELCAC? Kasi parehong-pareho eh," she said during the Senate's deliberation on the proposed ₱209.92 billion budget for DSWD in 2024.

[Translation: Why not just transfer it to the NTF-ELCAC? Because they have exactly the same objectives.]

The PAMANA program aims to deliver basic social services to conflict-affected communities, especially in places where insurgency is rampant.

DSWD Secretary Rex Gatchalian said the beneficiaries of the program are former combatants identified by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process. The PAMANA program has a proposed allocation of ₱351 million for 2024.

Meanwhile, the NTF-ELCAC was established in 2018 with the goal to end communist terrorism in the Philippines through its barangay development program.

Gatchalian insisted that the PAMANA program does not only cover areas where communist terrorists are operating, but also places where the Moro Islamic Liberation Font and the Abu Sayyaf Group are present.

"In this program, we do not only talk about the former NPA areas, but rather we also talk about MNLF, MILF areas, other combatant areas, to include as well yung areas infested by Abu Sayaff," he said.

"This is administered also by case managers namin na social workers," Gatchalian added. "So they look at the whole human dimension of a former combatant's needs."

But Sen. Marcos was not convinced by the DSWD chief's explanation.

"Para sa akin (For me), exactly what you said, is exactly what occurs in the NTF-ELCAC...I can't see the distinction," she said. "Pareho lang kasi (It's just the same). Very diversed din ang NTF-ELCAC, bakit hindi pagkaisa? (The NTF-ELCAC is also diversed, so why not just integrate it?)" she said.

The senator asked Gatchalian to submit a report on the difference between the PAMANA program and the NTF-ELCAC's programs.