Some P9.699 billion has been released so far for the development of barangays that have been cleared of the influence of the New People’s Army (NPA), but this – or the full P16.4-billion allocation for 2021 – cannot be “abused” by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson said.
Lacson gave this assurance to fellow lawmakers who are asking to defund NTF-ELCAC, even as he stressed the amount would eventually be released to the local government units that will implement the development projects.
“Being the sponsor of the NTF-ELCAC’s 2021 budget, it is my obligation and responsibility to defend the Department of Budget and Management’s release of funds which will be implemented not by the NTF-ELCAC but by the local government units concerned,” said Lacson, who chairs the Senate’s Committee on National Defense and who sponsored the budget of the Department of National Defense (DND) and its attached agencies for 2021.
No way can NTF-ELCAC abuse the P16.4B fund. As their budget sponsor in the Senate, I made sure that they will not be involved in the implementation of the infrastructure, electrification & agriculture projects, as well as the livelihood/social services in NPA-cleared barangays.
— PING LACSON (@iampinglacson) May 6, 2021
Thus, programs, activities and projects (PAPs) worth P1 million or less will be implemented by the barangay; those worth more than P1 million but not more than P10 million by the city or municipality; and those worth more than P10 million by the province.
PAPs for the cleared barangays include the construction of water systems, local roads, school buildings, and day-care centers.
Also, Lacson pointed out the fund is not even at the disposal of the security sector since it is part of the Special Purpose Fund under the Assistance to Local Government Units (ALGU), for holding and developing barangays cleared of NPA influence.
Citing Special Allotment Release Orders (SAROs) issued by the DBM in relation to the NTF-ELCAC’s Barangay Development Program, Lacson said the P9.699 billion released so far will fund development PAPs in 485 of 822 barangay beneficiaries.
The P9.699 billion released represents 59 percent of the total P16.4 billion for 1,374 development programs, projects and activities. It includes P9.275 billion for infrastructure; P165.4 million for livelihood/social services; P159.06 million for electrification; P84,525 for agriculture; and P15,500 for COVID-19.
On the other hand, Lacson said he is still waiting for the DND establishment to comply with the 1987 Constitution by relieving Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. as NTF-ELCAC spokesperson, after being assured by a high official of the task force of prompt action on the matter.
He said Parlade’s holding a position in a civilian body like the NTF-ELCAC violates Article XVI, Sec 5, paragraph 4 of the 1987 Constitution, where “no member of the armed forces in the active service shall, at any time, be appointed or designated in any capacity to a civilian position in the Government, including government-owned or controlled corporations or any of their subsidiaries.”
Lacson earlier noted Parlade has also become a “liability” to the overall efforts of the government, as well as the government’s position on the pending 37 petitions against the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 before the Supreme Court, mainly due to his careless remarks and flawed interpretation of certain provisions of the law.
“Having shown that the release of funds complies with the Constitution, when will the defense establishment – including NTF-ELCAC vice chairperson Sec. Hermogenes Esperon Jr., who had said he will review Parlade’s fate as NTF-ELCAC spokesperson – comply with the Constitution as well? I am still waiting for the appropriate response. I just hope the wait won’t be too long,” he added.