65% of anti-communist task force’s P16.4-B fund released

THE BUDGET department has so far released more than half of the P16.4-billion fund for the Barangay Development Program (BDP) to 712 communist-free villages, according to the state’s anti-communist task force.

“We wish to inform the public that as of May 4, 2021, P10.68 billion of the BDP has been released to 712 out of 822 barangay-recipients identified for the program,” Hermogenes C. Esperon Jr., vice chair of the task force, said in an online briefing on Monday.

A progressive block in the House of Representatives last week filed a resolution calling on the task force to fully disclose to the public how its multi-billion budget under the 2021 national spending plan is being used.

The group called on the House Committee on Public Accounts to probe the Special Allotment Release Orders worth P9.66 billion released to the task force, citing that the data regarding the funds were inaccessible in the Budget department’s website. A group of senators have called for a similar probe.

The Commission on Audit last year vowed to scrutinize the task force’s budget, which civic groups said has been used to harass government critics.

Several local governments, on the other hand, have expressed support for the BDP citing benefits to communities.

The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) has been widely criticized for red-tagging activities carried out by its spokespersons, particularly Gen. Antonio G. Parlade, Jr. and Undersecretary Lorraine Marie T. Badoy.

Mr. Esperon announced during Monday’s briefing some adjustments in the NTF-ELCAC, including specific topics that Mr. Parlade and Ms. Badoy can speak on. The task force now has eight spokespersons from various departments. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

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