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Proposed P16.44-B for NTF-ELCAC is General's 'pork' if unexplained –solon

Makabayan bloc urges General Hermogenes Esperon to explain in detail the P16.44-billion proposed budget for the NTF-ELCAC

A lawmaker from the Makabayan bloc urges General Hermogenes Esperon to explain in detail the P16.44-billion proposed budget for the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

Failure to do so, Bayan Muna Representative Ferdinand Gaite said, the multi-billion-peso budget could be lump sum "Generals' pork."

"Much has been said but not much has been made clear. Gen. Esperon had wasted so much time throwing the same accusations against the Makabayan bloc, but he has yet to shed light on where exactly the P16.44 billion funds they are asking would go,"  Gaite said in a statement.

In a press conference on Friday, Gen. Esperon, NTF-ELCAC's vice chairperson, presented an "outline" on where the agency intends to use the proposed budget, Gaite said.

"Congress needs to see each and every item. Hindi lump sum, hindi summary. Kung lump sum yan, pork barrel talaga yan. That's lump sum General's Pork,"  he added.

Bayan Muna solon and Lumad leader Eufemia Cullamat also shared the same sentiment.

"Hindi porket may summary at outline, matatawag na nating line item budget at kung gayon hindi pork. Mas maayos pa ang Department of Agriculture (DA) sa line item budget nila ng farm-to-market roads. Doon makikita mo saang barangay, anong uri ng proyekto at magkano ang nakalaan," said Cullamat.

On Friday, on the other hand, Senate Committee on Finance chairperson Sonny Angara said senators will carefully study the barangay development projects that would be funded by the proposed P16.4-billion budget for the NTF-ELCAC.

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

"The Senate will tackle the budgets of different agencies 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. —LBG, GMA News