Lawmakers who will support the budget cut on the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) Barangay Development Program (BDP) could face “zero votes” and could be declared persona non grata in areas affected by the budget cuts.
At the weekly virtual press briefing of the NTF-ELCAC on Monday, two governors from the south, a mayor from the Mountain Province, and a former rebel leader were united in pledging for “zero vote” for any lawmaker who will push for ‘defunding’ the BDP and NTF-ELCAC.
These include Senators Joel Villanueva, Risa Hontiveros, Sherwin “Win” Gatchalian, Nancy Binay, Franklin Drilon and Grace Poe.
“We see this (BDP) as a kind of reward. After liberating our communities of insurgents since 1986, this (BDP) is a big thing,” Sadanga Municipal Mayor Gabino Ganggangan from the Mountain Province said, referring to the fund received by barangays in his municipality in the amount of P20 million each from the task force’s BDP which can be used for basic necessities of their communities such as farm-to-market roads.
“This (BDP) is P20 million for a barangay alone.” Ganggangan pointed out that the funds from the BDP is much higher than the 20-percent Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) of about P18 million given annually by the national government to his 3rd class municipality.
He vowed that if the budget cut will be pursued by Congressmen and Senators, he will spearhead a traditional Ifugao ritual that will put a curse to lawmakers so that they will lose in next year’s elections, aside from pushing for “zero votes”.
According to National Security A viser (NSA) and NTF-ELCAC Vice Chairman, Secretary (Retired AFP General) Hermogenes Esperon, Gan gangan is a known anti-communist fighter in the Mt. Province who has protected Indigenous People (IPs) from exploitation by the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army, National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).
Esperon also expressed his dismay on the budget cut, while questioning the lawmakers’ motives behind the move.
“So ano ngayon ang sasabihin ng mga tao? Nagpangako kayo tapos nung ibibigay ninyo na lang ay aagawin ninyo at ilalagay ninyo sa ibang proyekto? Bakit, pag insurgency ba ay walang halaga sa inyo?” the NSA said.
Esperon continued, “Of course, P28 billion maging P4 billion, ang translation nyan ay instead na P20 million maging P2.7 million na lang. Parang dalawang sampal yan. Binawasan mo na tapos binigyan mo pa ng kendi sa halip na bigyan mo ng kalsada.”
He said it was a grave insult to our poor kababayans for not delivering on the promised BDP.
North Cotabato Governor Nancy Catamco on the other hand, said 36 of the 57 barangays located in far-flung places in her province were already cited by the NTF-ELCAC to received the P20 million fund from BDP.
“Fifteen (15) barangays out the off the 37, have already witnessed groundbreaking rites. At patuloy pa. Marami ang nageexpect na matuloy ang development. Imagine, kung makakapag-reklamo lang ang kanilang mga
kabayo, magreraklamo na ang mga ito dahil sa sama ng kalagayan ng mga kalsada. (Many are expecting the development program to continue. If horses can only speak, they will also complain about the bad conditions of our roads.)” Catamco said.
“Have an open heart and mind. Listen to people who will benefit from this fund,” she said.
For Governor Tyron Uy of Davao de Oro, lawmakers should also summon them at the budget hearings so that they can attest to the gains brought about by the BDP in their province, explaining that they, too, headed the local and regional ELCAC.
Joy James Saguino a.k.a Ka Amihan, former secretary of Guerilla Front 20 under Sub-Regio al Committee 1 of the NPA, said the “collective voice” and “united stand” of 857 people’s oganizations, including those of former rebels, have come up with a statement indicating their disapproval in the “strongest term” to some lawmakers’ move of defunding the task force.
“NTF-ELCAC has been effective in addressing the root cause of communist insurgency at the grass root level. It paved the way for development and social services. BDP assured the sustainment of development in a community. And it’s only because of the Executive Order 70. This is every Filipino victory,” the former rebel said.
The panelist were hopeful that the lawmakers will have a change in their position over the issue, as provinces to be most affected by the budget cut were those in the Bicol, Samar, Caraga, Negros regions, and in the entire Region 10