National Security Adviser and National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict Vice Chairman Secretary Hermogenes Esperon Jr. on Tuesday questioned the Makabayan Bloc’s motive, especially the Gabriela Women’s Party in falsely accusing the Task Force of allegedly receiving millions of pesos through illegal fund transfer from various government agencies.
At the weekly virtual press conference of the NTF-ELCAC, Esperon said “they are out to divert attention,” referring to the issue of the proven donations made by foreign countries to Gabriela which is a flagrant violation of the Constitution and the Commission on Election (Comelec) Rules.
“ 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. That’s why they are getting back at us,” he said.
Esperon pointed out that “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.”
On the issue of fund transfer, Esperon explained that “we (the Task Force) are grouped into clusters or in the form of a joint regional or provincial or municipal task forces. There are 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).”
“The member agencies simply come together and bring their own funds towards a commonly understood objectives,” the official added.
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 of NTF-ELCAC under House Resolution No. 2417.
Meanwhile, Interior and Local Government 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 (EO) No. 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 DILG Chief expressed surprise that the Makabayan Bloc would question the downloading of funds to its field offices when it was Congress that appropriated these funds to the Departmen
The Philippine National Police also aired its side through Deputy Chief for Administration PLt. 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 remain intact.
According to him, the P723 million was just released last October 2020 and Department of Budget and Management (DBM) gave the PNP until December 2021 to utilize the same as a “continuing appropriation” .
For her part, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) Deputy Director General Lina Sarmiento explained that 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.
She pointed out TESDA 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.