MANILA – Presidential Task Force on Media Security Exec. Dir. Undersecretary Joel Sy Egco cautioned Wednesday against the "virus of communist terrorists" in the event that the government defunds the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).
Egco issued the statement, amid critics’ calls to realign the NTF-ELCAC’s funds to the country’s coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic response efforts.
“‘Pag trinansfer ang pondo doon at hindi binigay sa mga supposed beneficiary ng Barangay Development Program, aba’y dadami ang virus ng communist terrorists (If we transfer the fund and we fail to provide assistance to the supposed beneficiaries of the Barangay Development Program, the virus of communist terrorists will plague us),” Egco, a newly-appointed spokesperson of NTF, said in an interview with dzMM’s “Kuwentuhang Lokal”.
Under the 2021 national budget, a total of PHP19 billion is earmarked for NTF-ELCAC.
Around PHP16.4 billion of the PHP19 billion budget of the government’s anti-communist task force is allocated to its Barangay Development Program (BDP).
A nationwide banner program of NTF-ELCAC, the BDP is a package of socio-economic development programs allocated for areas cleared of infestation of the communists’ armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA).
The BDP’s major programs include farm-to-market roads, livelihood, irrigation, and health stations.
Citing data from the Department of Budget and Management, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on May 4 slammed the “speedy” release of PHP10.6 billion for NTF-ELCAC.
Not for NTF-ELCAC
Egco clarified that the BDP beneficiaries, not the NTF-ELCAC members, will benefit from the release of funds.
“Hindi po sa NTF-ELCAC iyang budget na iyan (The budget is not for NTF-ELCAC),” he said. “Wala nga po kaming pondong extra pay dito. Ibig sabihin, hindi po kami tatamaan. Ang tatamaan kapag dinefund ang NTF-ELCAC, 'yun pong 822 barangays na since 2016 ay umaasa na magbibigay ng development ang pamahalaan sa kanila (We do not even have funds for extra pay. Meaning, [the proposed defunding] will not affect us, but the 822 villages that are expecting assistance from the government).”
He was referring to the 822 villages freed of NPA influence and located in geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas that have been identified as BDP recipients.
More villages to benefit
He said more villages are also expected to benefit from the BDP.
He said the updated roster of villages that have already been cleared of NPA infestation would be released by next week.
“Pag ito, pinigil natin, madodoble doble, mas lalong magrerebolusyon ang ating mga kababayan. ‘Yun po ba ang gusto niyong mangyari (If we stop this, our fellow countrymen will revolt. Is that what you want to happen)?” Egco said. (PNA)