Anti-communist body seeks doubling of budget in 2022

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 16) – The controversial inter-agency body looking to suppress communist rebellion will be asking for a bigger budget in 2022 despite calls among some lawmakers to defund it

Interior Secterary Eduardo Año said the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, or NTF-ELCAC, will seek a ₱40-billion budget next year, double its ₱16.4-billion fund it received for barangay development projects this year.

In the proposal, villages cleared of communist forces will receive ₱20 million for various livelihood and construction projects like farm-to-market roads, school buildings, and sanitation systems.

"We will fight for the approval for the budget of these 2,000 barangays," Año said during the Pre-SONA Forum on Friday.

"Kung papayagan tayo ng Congress at ng Senate, napakalaking bagay ito para sa ating mga barangay," he added.

[Translation: If Congress and the Senate grant this, it would be of great help to our barangays.]

READ: Drilon questions 'hasty' release of anti-communist task force funds

Some 822 barangays are entitled to receive funds from NTF-ELCAC this year. For 2022, Año said the benefit will be extended to 2,000 barangays recently cleared of armed rebels.

Año also defended why Davao Region, President Rodrigo Duterte's bailiwick, got the lion's share of this year's development funds at over ₱4 billion. He said the region is the area with the greatest presence of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People's Army.

"Wala talagang kinalaman 'yung (There's really no influence from the) national government or even, shall we say, the LGUs. It is really based on the prevailing situation in the barangays, particularly those under the influence of the CPP-NPA before," he added.

Año also refuted allegations made by the group Karapatan that areas which got the biggest NTF-ELCAC financial assistance also tallied more incidents of human rights abuses. He said the claim was untrue and "not based on evidence."

READ: Senators seek probe on NTF-ELCAC's performance