Read in: Pilipino
Let me rebut Gen. Hermogenes Esperon who claimed yesterday that the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) is spreading lies over the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC)’s Barangay Development Program.
1. First, let me invite the media and all readers to go through the Philippine News Agency’s coverage of the NTF-ELCAC’s press conference. Not once in the article “NTF-ELCAC grants ₱20-M dev’t fund for 215 villages in Region 11” (https://www.pna.gov.ph/articles/1128387) where Gen. Esperon is quoted extensively, was it said that each barangay will receive ₱20 million. It even detailed how ₱20 million will be divided among the different government agencies who will implement the BDP.
2. Now Gen. Esperon claims that ₱20 million will be distributed to each of the 800 barangays. Do these barangays have names? Has the NTF-ELCAC made an evaluation of the needs of each of these barangays including the socioeconomic conditions of the people?
It is likely that the barangays identified by the NTF-ELCAC are located in areas which are either targets of oil palm plantations (which Duterte is pushing hard for in behalf of the large multinational corporations) or mining operations.
3. Let me raise the observation that among the supposed 800 barangays who will be prioritized by the NTF-ELCAC, 83 (or more than 10%) are in Davao City where the head of the NTF-ELCAC itself, Pres. Duterte, hails from. I think only a politically blind person will not see how public funds are being anomalously diverted to serve the interests of the ruling political clique.
It is clear that the NTF-ELCAC’s ₱16.4 BDP is just pork barrel on steroids. Without a doubt, funds for infrastructure projects will only go to the pockets of local contractors and local government officials, as is always the case in the Philippines since time immemorial. The only difference now is that the active and former officers of the AFP will directly partake of the corruption.
4. We maintain that the NTF-ELCAC Barangay Development Program does not address the basic economic needs of the people. Not one of the NTF-ELCAC’s infrastructure priorities address the basic problem of the peasants and Lumad people: land ownership. These are mere band-aid solutions. These are only for show.
Duterte has repeatedly bragged before that the peasants no longer need the NPA because he himself will implement land reform. Obviously an empty declaration. Duterte has not freely distributed even one parcel of land to poor peasants even after close to 1,700 days in office.
What benefit will these “farm-to-market roads” bring to peasants when many of these lead to nowhere, where there are no farms, or where peasant land is being taken away from them by big plantations and mining companies? When big landlords take away 50% to 70% of their crops? When big commercial traders undercut prices of their produce?
The NTF-ELCAC brags it will build school buildings and health centers. Considering that Duterte’s budget does not allot additional funds for employing enough teachers and health workers, these will end up empty white elephant projects.
Road projects, which will get the biggest share of the NTF-ELCAC’s funds, will only benefit big capitalists who will now have access roads to plantations, mines and energy projects. These roads also serve counterinsurgency aims as these will provide the AFP with roads to easily penetrate interior areas in order to position their troops and garrison the peasants and Lumads in their own land.