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Angara vows Senate scrutiny of P16-B barangay dev't fund under NTF-ELCAC

NTF-ELCAC barangay development projects

Senate Committee on Finance chairperson Sonny Angara on Friday said the senators will carefully study the barangay development projects that would be funded by the proposed P16.4-billion budget under the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

"We have been told that there are more specific listings corresponding to these ELCAC lump sums, corresponding to specific projects," Angara said in a text message to GMA News Online.

"The Senate will tackle the different agency budgets where these items are lodged in the coming weeks where I am quite sure senators will carefully scrutinize the purpose and relevance of these items," he added.

During a House budget hearing on Thursday, Kabataan party-list Representative Sarah Elago questioned the multi-billion-peso allocation for areas "cleared" of insurgency.

"Lump sum at discretionary, hindi po ba pork barrel ito? At dahil nasa discretion ito ng Pangulo, ito ay dagdag na pork sa Office of the President? Hindi po ba ito ang dating ay parang election war chest na?" Elago said.

In response, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año denied claims that these funds will be used for the 2022 elections, and added that a list of specific projects under the said allocation is still being finalized.

"Ito nga po ay isa-submit namin sa Congress once makumpleto na po ang listahan, specific projects po. Hindi po tayo papayag na i-lump sum ito, dapat po naka-define ang bawat project," he said.

Año further said the budget will be kept in the  Local Government Support Fund (LGSF).

"Lilinawin ko lamang po, unang-una po itong P16 billion na ito ay 'di po mina-manage ng DILG, ito po ay nasa LGSF. Malayong-malayo sa koneksyon ng eleksyon sapagkat 822 barangays lang ito compared sa 42,000 barangays all over the country," he said.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, in a separate budget hearing at the upper chamber, also raised the same apprehension over the said allocation for barangay development under the NTF-ELCAC.

On the other hand, Senator Panfilo Lacson said he supports it.

"Once a barangay is cleared, the LGUs through the DILG would need funds to consolidate and develop their areas. So the insurgents, CPP-NPAs will not go back to the mountains anymore. So I’m supportive of that program of the government. We’ve been in this for 50 years na or 60 years," he said in an interview on ANC.

A total of P19.13-billion was earmarked for the NTF-ELCAC for fiscal year 2021. A huge chunk of it or the P16.4 billion was proposed to support the barangay development program.

Lacson said this P19 billion is quite small compared to the hundreds of billions worth of infrastructure projects that should better be guarded.

"Masyadong maliit 'yan. Ang nakakatakot, dito sa infrastructure projects kasi dito papasok ang possible haggling with Malacañang, if we assume that may sinister effort or move on the part of the Palace to dip or poke their fingers sa 2022 elections," he said. —LBG, GMA News