The ruling PDP-Laban party has passed a resolution urging lawmakers to increase the reward fund distributed to barangay or villages by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), a move immediately criticized by the opposition.  

The party resolution called for a hike in the  Barangay Development Program (BDP), which awards P20 million each to barangay or villages that qualify as “cleared of communist influence.” It had an allocation of P16.4 billion in the 2020 budget.

It said 2,200 more “qualified” barangay should get money in 2022.

“I firmly believe these funds are very important in ensuring our kababayans in the hinterlands will feel government presence and government services, so deleting or scrapping the ELCAC funds will only bolster the insurgency problem of several areas in the country,” said Eastern Samar Gov. Ben Evardone, who proposed the resolution.

So far, a total of 822 barangay that met the task force’s criteria benefit from the multi-billion-peso fund.

Critics had questioned the big funding, saying the money should be reallocated to the pandemic response. 

House of Representatives members in April threatened to defund NTF-ELCAC after “red-tagging” community pantry organizers and volunteers.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Tuesday said he would oppose “tooth and nail” the NTF-ELCAC budget for 2022, warning that the national budget could be used as a huge “campaign kitty” for next year’s elections.

Drilon noted that the number of villages declared “cleared” had increased by 1,398 2,220, as announced by National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon.

“That will be a whopping P28 billion election war chest. We will vehemently oppose the budget of NTF-ELCAC,” Drilon said. Kelsey Telo