The Duterte regime has started to roll-out the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC)’s Barangay Development Program (BDP). Its show-off projects aim to create the illusion that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) brings “development” when in fact these will only cause further poverty and oppression.
A few weeks ago, the NTF-ELCAC bragged of releasing ₱20 million to each of 215 barangays supposed BDP beneficiaries in Region 11. The sum of ₱4.3 billion comes from the ₱16.4 billion BDP fund under Duterte’s 2021 budget which identified 822 barangays “cleared” of the NPA.
The ₱20 million per barangay will be divided to ₱12 million for “farm-to-market” roads; ₱3 million for schools; ₱2 million for water system and sanitation; and ₱1.5 million each for reforestation and health stations. These infrastructure projects seek to bedazzle the masses to make them think that there is progress in their area.
What good to the peasant masses are these roads which are supposed to ease transporting products to the market when landlords already take away their harvest; or when traders deny fair prices? What good will constructing schools or clinics when there are no teachers or doctors? What is reforestation if only commercial trees are planted to benefit the big capitalists?
All these merely cover-up the surface-level problems of the masses. None address the basic problem of the rural masses: landlessness. This is where all their hardship and oppression stem from. This is the root of their exploitation and the reason why they continue to support and take part in the armed struggle.
Who will benefit from these projects but the contractors and local bureaucrats and officials who will control the funds for these infrastructure projects? This is no different from the congressmen’s pork barrel that funds the roads and waiting sheds in their favorite barangays. The BDP is the military’s pork barrel, to bribe local officials and support their favorites. Like the anomalous projects of congressmen, the BDPs are bound to be ridden with corruption.
The BDP is a big psywar project. The AFP and NTF-ELCAC want to make it appear that the military addresses development, education, health and others. Through the BDP, the AFP claims they can win the people’s hearts and minds so they will no longer go back to supporting the NPA.
The BDP obscures the AFP’s bloody war against the rural masses of peasants and Lumad. It hides the relentless and brutal campaign of killings, arrests, intimidation and threats, repression, red-tagging and forcing people to “surrender.” The BDP interfaces with the AFP’s Retooled Community Support Program (RCSP) where its soldiers occupy communities and oppress the masses under garrison-like conditions.
In their race to get funds under the BDP, the AFP’s dirty war against the masses is set to further intensify. The military is rushing to make more and more villages bow to their power. The fascist attacks will be grow worse in their desperation to draw the masses away from their army, and declare the barangay “cleared.” There are bound to be more cases of the masses being forced to “surrender” and work for the military. There are worsening cases of the military turning their ire and retaliating against the village masses whenever there are successful NPA tactical offensives.
The biggest winners of these projects are the big foreign companies and big bourgeois compradors who are drooling to enter the rural hinterlands. Most of the BDP’s funds or 75.54% (₱12.42 billion) will go to Mindanao where one finds most of widespread plantations, mining and energy projects covering hundreds of thousands of hectares of land. They drive away the masses of peasants and Lumad from their farm land and ancestral land. Allotting the largest amount of funds for roads aims to make it easier to haul the minerals to be exported to other countries, the palm oil, bananas, pineapple and other crops for export.
The peasant masses and minority people must fully expose and oppose the BDP projects that do not address their true grievances.
The rural masses must be assisted to assert their clamor for genuine land reform and their demands to reduce land rent, higher wages for farmworkers and fair farmgate prices. Together with the peasant masses, the minority masses must intensify their struggle to defend their ancestral lands.
Thoroughly expose the corruption of military officers, in connivance with local officials and contractors who pocket millions of pesos from these projects. Encourage local village officials to oppose the bribe money being paid to them by the military in exchange for their support of the BDP projects.
The broad masses must continue to resist the garrisoning and brutality of the military in their villages to suppress their resistance and pave the way for the big capitalists to occupy their land, plunder the natural resources and destroy the environment.