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ABANTE: USE NTF-ELCAC FUNDS FOR SUBSIDY PROGRAMS

A House leader called for the reallocation of National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) funds to subsidy programs under the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), saying in a resolution he filed on Friday that in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government should prioritize financial assistance programs over a controversial counter-insurgency body more focused on red-tagging than its actual mandate.

In a resolution, Deputy Speaker Benny Abante Jr., urged the House to act “to reallocate the 16 billion pesos allotted for the NTF-ELCAC’s barangay development projects to subsidy programs under the DSWD and the DOLE meant to provide financial support for unemployed Filipinos and underprivileged families.”

“Despite warnings from legislators and concerned public officials to refrain from this practice, NTF-ELCAC officials continue to red-tag individuals, the latest of whom include individuals organizing ‘community pantries’ that seek to provide free food and basic necessities for citizens hard up because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.”

According to the resolution, “given the gravity of the problems brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, and in light of the inability of NTF-ELCAC to properly perform its functions, the government should prioritize efforts to provide financial assistance and other forms of support to our countrymen who have no sources of income or have limited means as a result of the pandemic.”

The resolution points out that “our country is currently in the middle of a pandemic that has claimed over 16,000 lives in the Philippines alone, with a total of close to a million COVID-19 cases tallied since January 2020 and 107,988 active cases as of 22 April 2021.”

Abante’s measure nonetheless recognizes that the Philippines has the world’s longest-running communist insurgency, “a conflict that has claimed the lives of thousands of combatants and civilians and has for decades posed a threat to the peace and security of our nation.”

That said, the solon lamented in the resolution that NTF-ELCAC communications efforts “appear to center on publicly accusing elected officials, journalists, non-government organizations, activists, lawyers, educators, celebrities, and private citizens of having links to armed communist insurgency groups, a practice commonly referred to as red-tagging.”

“Despite warnings from legislators and concerned public officials to refrain from this practice, NTF-ELCAC officials continue to red-tag individuals, the latest of whom include individuals organizing ‘community pantries’ that seek to provide free food and basic necessities for citizens hard up because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.”

The lawmaker explained in the resolution that the NTF-ELCAC’s continued red-tagging of groups and individuals is inconsistent with its mandate to implement a “Whole of Nation Approach” to counter the insurgency.

“Our people need help, and we should encourage, not discourage, those who want to lend a helping hand. Nakikita natin sa mga pila ng community pantries na kailangan talaga ng ayuda ang ating mga kababayan––at kung ganun masmainam na gamitin ang pondo ng NTF-ELCAC para sa ayuda ng mga kababayan natin na walang trabaho at walang makain.”

The NTF-ELCAC was established via Executive Order Number 80, s. 2018., which states that the NTF-ELCAC was created to implement a “Whole-of-Nation Approach” that “addresses the root causes of insurgencies, internal disturbances and tensions, and other conflicts and threats by prioritizing and harmonizing the delivery of basic services and social development packages by the government, facilitating societal inclusivity, and ensuring active participation of all sectors of the society in the pursuit of the country’s peace agenda.”

“Rather than promote inclusivity, the NTF ELCAC continues to alienate potential allies; rather than encourage the public to support its objectives, it continues to draw its ire; rather than be a light for peace, it continues to be a lightning rod of conflict,” said Abante.

“Our people need help, and we should encourage, not discourage, those who want to lend a helping hand. Nakikita natin sa mga pila ng community pantries na kailangan talaga ng ayuda ang ating mga kababayan––at kung ganun masmainam na gamitin ang pondo ng NTF-ELCAC para sa ayuda ng mga kababayan natin na walang trabaho at walang makain.”

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