SP legislators lauded for putting primacy on people’s health over intel fund

Estrella Banagbanag | Spokesperson | NPA-Southeast Negros (Rachelle Mae Palang Command) | Negros Island Regional Operational Command (Apolinario Gatmaitan Command) | New People's Army
February 12, 2021
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The Rachelle Mae Palang Command (RPMC) and the entire revolutionary movement in Southeast Negros join the rest of Negrosanons in commending the decision of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) of Negros Oriental to markedly slash the budget intended for so-called “intelligence gathering fund” in-order to allocate more resources to COVID-19 response.

The SP in a recent session approved the reduction of said budget from 11 million to only one million. At this time of the pandemic and abysmal economic situation, it’s indispensable to prioritize health and other basic services.

Unneeded expenses like the shady and unaccountable confidential fund should be discarded. Besides, sizeable chunks of this fund only went to pockets of military commanders and use in eavesdropping and surveillance of red tagged individuals.

Although the amount involved is not gargantuan to effect a massive consequence in the anti COVID-19 drive of the province, but such measure sets a good precedent related to the question of budget prioritization and making independent policy decision. Notwithstanding the prevailing military dominance in the pandemic response and the entire civilian bureaucracy through NTF-ELCAC.

We admire the courage of SP members for standing up for what is right out of their own volition and thoughtful consideration of the situation.

To justify their little “pork barrel”, 302nd Brigade Commander Col. Leonardo Peña prattled about “information gathering requires budget” to support the motion of PNP Provincial Director Col. Bryant Demot to retain the trimmed down allocation in the February 9 meeting of the Provincial Peace and Order (PPOC).

He went on further saying, “Mahirap kumuha ng assets na inuutusan mo lang pero wala kang mabiibigay na magamit.”

Isn’t the military claiming upper hand in the battle for the hearts and minds of the people through their insidious Retooled Community Support Program (RCSP)? How come they cannot gather information without paid assets or informants if they have the support of the people?

In that PPOC meeting, Peña issued contradictory statements regarding the strength of the NPA and the need for intelligence funds. He equivocally claimed “lumiit yung number of insurgents” but “it doesn’t mean we will stop the information gathering.” If the threat is minimal, why need millions for intelligence?

Furthermore, he contradicted himself in saying that the number of NPA fighters in 302nd Brigade’s area of responsibility run to about 300 which is way much higher than the earlier military estimates, especially with the alleged “dismantling” of Southeast Front in November last year. In effect, Peña inadvertently admitted that the NPA is growing in strength. Previously, this figure was used by the military to describe the entire strength of the NPA in Negros Island.

With clear-cut rationale, Board Member Erwin Macias objected to Demot’s motion and accounted for the cut in intelligence fund. He clarified that under the current circumstances, the SP is prioritizing the health sector and also to decongest the provincial hospital and improve its facilities.

The legislator added than more than one million has been distributed to each of the seven health centers in the primary hospitals of Bindoy, Bayawan City, Bais City and Guihulngan City to improve services.

This event showed that not all local government officials are sycophants and blind acolytes of the fascist US-Duterte regime and it military forces.

RMPC calls on SP members to hold on to their independence and persist on rendering meaningful services to the people of Negros Oriental though relevant legislation and other means. ###

SP legislators lauded for putting primacy on people’s health over intel fund