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Drilon: COA findings on PNP anti-insurgency funds show NTF-ELCAC budget for 2021, 2022 unnecessary

The P636 million unused Philippine National Police (PNP) anti-insurgency funds show that the government does not need the multi-billion allocations in the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) for 2021 and 2022, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said Thursday.

Drilon issued his remark after the Commission on Audit (COA) reported that the PNP only utilized around 12% or P86.57 million out of the P722.96 million anti-insurgency funds it received in 2020.

“The COA finding is proof that the government did not need the P19.2 billion anti-insurgency fund lodged under the NTF-ELCAC this year and, more so, it is proof that we do not need to give a single centavo to the NTF-ELCAC for 2022,” Drilon said in a text message to reporters.

“We have more than sufficient funds to counter insurgency, millions of which remained untouched, unobligated and unspent,” he added.

Drilon argued that providing NTF-ELCAC with more government funds next year will drain the country’s limited resources.

“To fund NTF-ELCAC in 2022 will cause unnecessary drain on our limited resources meant to respond to the continuing pandemic and provide aid to millions of unemployed and hungry Filipinos. To insist on anti-insurgency funding in the 2022 national budget in the light of the COA findings will bolster suspicion that the NTF-ELCAC is a huge campaign kitty,” he underscored.

Explain COA findings

Senate President Vicente Sotto III, on the other hand, said the PNP will have to explain the COA findings during the budget deliberations.

“There is an obvious flaw somewhere. We will find out,” he said.

Senate finance committee chair Sonny Angara likewise said all implementing agencies are obliged to justify their budget utilization to Congress.

“We will ask all the agencies tasked to implement the program to account for the funds appropriated by Congress and released to them. We owe this to the people and we should be guided in our future actions relating to the budget,” Angara said.

In the said COA report, the state auditors stated that PNP was allocated over P1 billion as a member of the NTF-ELCAC.

The PNP only received P722.96 million of that amount, P240.80 million of which was obligated, leaving an unobligated balance of P482.15 million.

Out of the P240.80 million obligated by the PNP in 2020, only 35.95% or P86.57 million was used for procurement, leaving a balance of P154.23 million in unpaid disbursements.

Until end of the year

In a statement, PNP chief Police General Guillermo Eleazar said the police organization has until the end of 2021 to spend the funds, as advised by the Department of Budget and Management.

Eleazar said the DBM told the PNP that the NTF-ELCAC fund is considered as a ‘continuing appropriation,’ which gives the police organization until December 31 this year to spend it.

He added that the fund was released in October 2020, and the PNP cannot spend the entire amount in the two remaining months last year.

He said the PNP is just complying with the law on the use of public funds.

“Hindi pa ito puwedeng gastusin lahat sa natitirang dalawang buwan ng 2020 dahil sa mahigpit na alituntunin ng batas sa paggastos ng pondo ng taumbayan,” he said.

(We cannot spend all the funds yet in the two remaining months of 2020 because the law has strict guidelines on the use of public funds.)

Eleazar denied that the unused fund was due to neglect or anomaly.

Senators earlier called for the defunding of the anti-insurgency task force following the controversial statements of its former spokesperson Lieutenant General Antonio Parlade Jr.

The NTF-ELCAC was given P19 billion under the 2021 General Appropriations Act.

Drilon also earlier warned that there will be around P28 billion allocation for the task force under the 2022 budget. He said this may be used in “aid of election.” — RSJ, GMA News