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Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon believes the P16.4-billion budget for the government’s campaign to end communism will be spent on administration allies’ 2022 electoral bids.

Drilon questioned the allocation of P16.4 billion for the Barangay Development Program of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) created under the Office of the President during the Development Budget Coordinating Committee (DBCC) briefing on the proposed P4.5-trillion 2021 budget on Wednesday (September 9).

“Let’s be candid. Next year is an election year and here is a secretariat who will be playing God to the requests of the barangays. When you have a system like this, it can be clearly used for political purposes especially that 2021 is an election year,” he said.

“I call a spade a spade. I am being candid with you. I am not new in this bureaucracy. When you have an office, not a regular line agency but just somebody or a task force, who will be approving and disapproving the requests of barangays barangay, you can imagine the political favors that can be done out of this system,” Drilon added.

The opposition lawmaker noted that the NTF-ELCAC’s proposed budget is bigger than the budget of the Department of Labor and Employment of P15.9 billion, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration’s P7.4 billion budget, the Department of Tourism’s P3.5 billion, and the Department of Trade and Industry’s P5.5 billion budget.

“Are we saying that communist insurgency will be a bigger threat than our unemployment Is the communist insurgency a bigger threat than our high unemployment, the loss of jobs of our OFWs, the shutdown of our entire tourism industry and the closure of tens of thousands of small businesses?” Drilon asked.

Under the provisions of the 2021 national expenditures program, the P16.4 shall be used for the implementation of various support programs of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) for the cleared barangays as certified by the NTF-ELCAC.

The proposed appropriation law provides that each cleared barangay shall be allocated with an amount not exceeding P20 million to be used for farm-to-market road; school building; water and sanitation system; health stations; electrification; agricultural, livelihood and technical vocational trainings/projects; and assistance to indigent individual or families in any of the following forms of assistance: (a) medical; (b) burial; (c) transportation; (d) food; (e) cash for work; and (f) educational.

Drilon told Budget Secretary Wendell Avisado that the functions can be very well performed by different line agencies.

“If a barangay would need a farm-to-market road, why can they not go to DPWH? Why do we need to create a new bureaucracy when this can be handled by different line agencies?” he added.

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