MANILA – Describing it as a diversionary tactic, National Security Adviser, Secretary Hermogenes Esperon Jr., questioned the Makabayan Bloc’s motive, especially Gabriela Women’s Party (Gabriela), in falsely accusing the Task Force of allegedly receiving millions of pesos through illegal fund transfer from various government agencies.
In the weekly virtual press conference of the NTF-ELCAC on Aug 23, Esperon said “gusto lang nilang (They just want) idivert yung attention,” referring to the issue of the proven donations made by foreign countries to Gabriela that is a flagrant violation of the Constitution and the Commission on Election (Comelec) Rules.
“Siguro yung kanilang (Their) reaction ay misplaced, wala sa lugar and probably will even say na self-serving. Self-serving because probably they want to cover some things, especially on the part of Gabriela. Alam ninyo naman na (You know that) I have testified in Comelec about the receipt of funds by Gabriela from foreign sources, which is prohibited by the Constitution and by Comelec Rules. Kaya parang binabawian ba kami. (They are getting even) Well, that's welcomed,” he said.
Esperon, who is also National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) vice-chairperson said: “The international accounting firm Mazars, which was hired by the Belgian government to look into the funds … came out with the report… and exactly it says that Gabriela has been the recipient of funds, even during election years.”
“Hindi biru-biro yung mga (It's no joke) amount of funds, which were received by them,” he said.
On the issue of fund transfer, Esperon explained that (the Task Force is are grouped into clusters or in the form of joint regional or provincial or municipal task forces and there is no transfer of funds to the NTF-ELCAC.
“Each agency implements and funds these activities to their own funds that are in the GAA (General Appropriations Act),” he said. “The member agencies simply come together and bring their own funds towards commonly understood objectives.”
Emphasizing that the NTF-ELCAC did not violate any law, Esperon welcomed the move of Gabriela for a congressional inquiry on all the alleged fund transfers and spending under House Resolution No. 2417.
Meanwhile, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo M. Año clarified that there was no fund transfer made to the NTF-ELCAC, but was a downloading of funds to DILG Region XII for the implementation of DILG programs in the barangays in support of Executive Order 70.
“Again, let me underscore that DILG funds were never transferred to the NTF ELCAC. Moreover, there is nothing ‘highly irregular’ in the DILG’s utilization of funds for ELCAC-related activities because we are authorized to do so under the General Appropriations Act of 2020,” Año added.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) also aired its side through Deputy Chief for Administration Police Lt. Gen. Joselito Vera Cruz over the alleged “unutilized NTF-ELCAC fund for 2020.”
Cruz reiterated the sentiments aired by PNP Chief Guillermo Eleazar over the past week that there was “no anomaly or irregularity” on the said unused funds, which are still intact.
The PHP723 million was just released last October 2020 and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) gave the PNP until December 2021 to utilize the same as a “continuing appropriation”.
Meanwhile, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) Deputy Director-General Lina Sarmiento said even before the NTF-ELCAC was created, TESDA has already been implementing the so-called mobile training programs or activities in various communities around the country.
On the alleged P160-million TESDA fund that was supposedly transferred to NTF-ELCAC, “It is not true.” Sarmiento said, adding that what came out in news reports were misleading.
TESDA, she said, has already reported to COA that P147 million of the said fund was actually released to its regional offices which were used for various scholarship programs, including those that benefited former rebels and indigenous people (IPs).
On the other hand, Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Undersecretary Rene Glen O. Paje said the DSWD is currently addressing the alleged deficiencies in the required documents for the P5.3-million fund used for the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) and the Livelihood Settlement Grants (LGS) for former rebels as cited in the COA report.
Paje said their DSWD field office is already collaborating with different agencies to retrieved the required documents and to attest to the eligibility of the beneficiaries. (PR)