At DILG Budget Hearing, Pimentel Stresses the Need to Evaluate NTF-ELCAC

The DILG, which oversees the Philippine National Police, also receives 906.6 million pesos in confidential and intelligence funds, again well below the 4.5 billion CIF pesos from the president’s office for 2023.

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate on Tuesday (November 15) approved the 252.6 billion peso 2023 budget proposal for the Department of the Interior and its attached agencies, but not before Senate Minority Leader Aquilino ” Koko” Pimentel III, emphasized the need to evaluate performance. of the controversial National Task Force to End the Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

While the NTF-ELCAC has 10 billion pesos deposited in the budget of the Department of Budget and Management for assistance to local government units (LGUs), there is also 1.084 billion pesos reserved for it in the budget of the Philippine National Police (PNP), which is under the supervision of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).

Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, sponsor of the DILG budget, said the 1.084 billion pesos covered activities that “addressed the root causes of insurgencies”. This is more than double the 400 million pesos approved in 2022.

Some activities carried out under the NTF-ELCAC include: counter-mobilization activities, the conduct of targeted law enforcement operations, capacity building and situational awareness, and intensified surveillance.

“Is the DILG ready to report on this three-year-old program? Suppose you haven’t rated 2022 yet, but you must have rated 2020 and 2021. [Can you] prove to us that the DILG assessed it? said Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III.

The DILG initially provided Angara and Pimentel with a one-page document on LGU beneficiaries of the country’s counter-insurgency program.

“This document that was handed to me is as if it were for a statistician – those who want to look at the numbers and will be happy with the numbers,” Pimentel said.

“But we established earlier that your task is to evaluate the implementation of the program. I understand that you are also evaluating [like] “We believe the program is effective and successful” or “We believe the program is not making a difference in the lives of our fellow citizens. We recommend stopping it. Things like that,” he said further in a mixture of English and Filipino.

DILG officials then handed the two senators a copy of the 2021 “Lakbayanihan para sa Kabarangayan” report. Pimentel said his concern was addressed when he received the report.

Human rights groups have long called for the NTF-ELCAC abolition and defunding, as he is known for labeling progressive and critical voices as aligned with the local communist movement. It was created during the Duterte administration, and was then vice-chaired by Hermogenes Esperon Jr. and had Lorraine Badoy as its spokesperson – both of whom had individuals and organizations marked in red.

The NTF-ELCAC is now vice-chaired by National Security Advisor Clarita Carlos.

Rights group Karapatan once called the NTF-ELCAC “a weapon [former president] Rodrigo Duterte in his desperate attempt to crush dissent and terrorize the Filipino people.

“Since its creation in 2018, the NTF-ELCAC has systematically spawned human rights violations and even war crimes in counterinsurgency operations. Far from its “mandate” to end the decades-long armed conflict and achieve an “inclusive and lasting” peace, the Duterte government has used the NTF-ELCAC to wage a war targeting human rights defenders, journalists, critics and anyone who stands in the way of Duterte’s de facto martial law,” Karapatan General Secretary Cristina Palabay said in December 2021.

Under the new administration, the NTF-ELCAC did not recommend the resumption of peace talks with the communist rebels.

Funds more confidential, but less than OP

The DILG will also get an increase of 20 million pesos in confidential funds. Of the 80.6 million pesos granted in 2022, the Senate approved 100.6 million pesos in confidential funds in 2023.

Meanwhile, the PNP will receive 806 million pula of intelligence funds in 2023.

Angara gave the following justifications for the 20 million peso increase in the DILG’s confidential funds:

  • To maintain the gains of the country’s anti-illegal drug campaign
  • Monitor and intensify information-gathering efforts for local officials suspected of involvement in terrorism and other illegal activities such as insurgency or support for “atrocities” by left-wing groups
  • Monitoring the activities, machinations and strategies of offenders using cyberspace and victimizing underage children and women
  • Conducting greyhound operations in prison facilities in cooperation with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (inter-agency operations within the DILG to flush out illegal activities in prisons, especially smuggling
  • Collecting information against illegal drug-related activities of prison staff and persons deprived of their liberty
  • Producing evidence-based surveillance reports against syndicates carrying out “economic sabotage activities” such as price manipulation, illegal importation, trading and smuggling, among others

During this time, intelligence funds would be used for the following:

  • To support intelligence and counter-intelligence activities, purchase of information, monetary rewards for apprehending most wanted people
  • Conducting counter-intelligence operations for the PNP’s anti-crime campaign through “special projects” related to counter-terrorism, homeland security operations, counter-drug operations, counter-crime operations
  • Support covert operations against organized crime groups and high-profile criminals and figures, whether in the Philippines or abroad
  • Supporting the operations of the nine Philippine Police Attaches in the United States, China, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Indonesia, France and Thailand

The PNP, a law enforcement agency, has far less confidential funds and intelligence than the Office of the President (OP), which was granted 4.5 billion pesos of such funds. It is the same situation as last year.

Pimentel had previously criticized the allocation of billions in confidential and intelligence funds to the PO, and the hundreds of millions of similar funds for the vice president’s office and the Department of Education headed by Vice President Sara Duterte.

He said that these funds should be directed to law enforcement and security-related agencies. – Rappler.com

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