BY GILBERT P. BAYORAN
While some lawmakers called for the realignment of the P19 billion funds of the National Task Force to end Local Communist Armed Conflict intended to be used for development of insurgency-cleared barangays all over the country, House Minority Leader Rep. Stephen Paduano pushed for the increase of the budget.
Paduano, a former communist rebel leader turned politician, claimed yesterday that the P19 billion budget is “too small” to cover all barangays declared as insurgency-free, and defended the proposal during the budget deliberations of the House.
Of the P19 billion budget, Western Visayas is getting P1.48 billion, including the P520 million to be received by the 26 insurgency-cleared barangays in Negros Occidental, majority of which are located in Escalante City, records of the Department of Budget and Management showed.
Paduano stressed the need for NTF-ELCAC to include also more insurgency-affected barangays, with big percentage of being cleared.
Amid fresh links to red-tagging controversies, some House lawmakers are also seeking an investigation or audit of the funds of the NTF-ELCAC, as six senators also called for defunding of the task force.
Paduano questioned the basis for defunding the NTF-ELCAC, and criticized them for riding on the issue, which he suspects has political reasons.
The NTF-ELCAC, through its spokesperson, Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade, was once again linked to red-tagging controversies after Anna Patricia Non temporarily halted the operations of the Maginhawa community pantry over “red-tagging” on social media. Non is the organizer of the initiative in the area.
While he condemned the “red-tagging” of community pantries in Manila, Paduano said using it for political agenda by some to defund the NTF-ELCAC should not be the case.
He said that NTF-ELCAC has nothing to do with red-tagging community pantries and their organizers, adding that they are just “checking” the situation of community pantries to make sure that organizers do not have any other agenda.
Paduano advised Parlade to be responsible in issuing statements.
Maj. Cenon Pancito, the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division spokesperson, said that the Barangay Development Program is the government flagship undertaking to end the local armed communist conflict by addressing the root causes of insurgency. Each of the insurgency-cleared barangays will receive P20 million worth of infrastructure projects, Pancito said.*