Senators seek probe on NTF-ELCAC's performance

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(FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 26) — Several members of the Senate filed a resolution Monday calling for an investigation into the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict's performance, including its activities and budget, following incidents of red-tagging.

Resolution No. 707 said the review is needed to see whether the task force has been fulfilling its mandate and whether its ₱19 billion budget for 2021 would be better off used for the needs of the public during the pandemic.

The resolution was introduced by Senators Nancy Binay, Grace Poe, Sherwin Gatchalian, Ralph Recto and Joel Villanueva.

READ: Senators push to defund NTF-ELCAC amid red-tagging issue

It noted incidences of red-tagging involving the task force, particularly those concerning community pantries.

"Reports of baseless and malicious red-tagging, profiling, and police interference of community pantries led to a halt in operations in several community pantries, and instilled fear in the organizers and volunteers for their safety and lives," it said.

It also mentioned previous incidents involving actresses Angel Locsin, Liza Soberano and former Miss Universe Catriona Gray.

"There is a need to draw the line between legitimate government counter-insurgency strategies against internal armed conflicts and threats on the one hand, and the silencing and crippling of innocent civilians with baseless and unsubstantiated claims, on the other," it added.

Given the challenges brought about by the pandemic, it also said all government agencies must use their budget wisely.

"There is a need to review the performance of the NTF-ELCAC in fulfilling its mandate vis-à-vis the need for judicious use of scarce government resources, and whether its Php19.1 billion appropriation for 2021 should be used instead to help address the needs of our citizens during this pandemic," the resolution said.

On Sunday, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Jr. said the task force was not misusing its funds, following calls from some lawmakers to realign its budget.

The NTF-ELCAC has a ₱19-billion budget for 2021, with around P16 billion to be spent for its BDP as incentives for barangays that were cleared of insurgency threats.

Esperon said taking back the barangay development fund would put the communities that needed it most at a disadvantage, as well as affect anti-insurgency efforts.