The push by Sen. Franklin Drilon to investigate the ₱19.2-billion budget of theNational Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) is a welcome move. The broad sectors of the people demand a stop to how their money is being squandered on wasteful and corrupt counterinsurgency operations and white elephant projects.
We maintain that the NTF-ELCAC’s ₱16.4-billion Barangay Development Program (BDP) is military pork barrel. It is being used by the NTF-ELCAC and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to gain leverage in influencing the local and national elections. It paves the way for enlarging the military’s political influence that is dangerously combined with their armed might.
The following are some of the questions that demand answers:
(a) How does the NTF-ELCAC classify barangays as “cleared of NPA.” The 822 barangays listed in the 2021 BDP were supposedly “cleared” in the period 2016-2019? In 2022, they plan to include even those barangays “cleared” much earlier, which likely have already been “recovered” by the NPA. How can it account for the fact that at least 50 of the barangays listed by the NTF-ELCAC in the BDP saw armed encounters between the NPA and the AFP since January 2020? Or the fact that some barangays listed are not considered by the NPA as part of their areas of operation?
An investigation into the BDP must discuss the nature of the people’s war and how it is a fluid war. Guerrilla units of the NPA always move around and expand into new areas. Where the AFP concentrates its forces, the NPA disperses and moves around, while maintaining its links with the masses.
(b) Are there actual feasibility studies that will show how the construction of 1-kilometer cemented roads will help alleviate the people’s socioeconomic conditions? Does the NTF-ELCAC plan to build these roads in all the rural barangays that are within the scope of operations of NPA guerrilla fronts?
In fact, these roads do not address the clamor of poor and downtrodden peasant masses and farm workers for free land distribution, financial support, higher farm wages and fair farm gate prices for their produce. Minority people, moreover, demand respect for their ancestral domain against development aggression of mining companies, eco-tourisim and energy projects, dams and the like.
(c) In constructing school buildings, is there actually budget allocations for the hiring of new teachers and provision of educational materials for school children? Similarly, is there actually budget allocations for the hiring of doctors, nurses and health workers and for medical equipment to man all the health stations supposedly to be constructed under the BDP so that they will not turn out to be empty buildings? Isn’t there a shortage of teachers across the public education system, and medical workers across the public health system?
I am sure that the matter surrounding the Davao-centric priority of the BDP and other incisive questions will be put forward by Sen. Drilon if the investigation actually pushes through.