BAGUIO CITY (August 25, 2021)— Calling it pure ‘squid tactics’, National Security Adviser (NSA) and National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) Vice Chairman Hermogenes Esperon Jr. questioned the Makabayan Bloc, especially the Gabriela Women’s Party (Gabriela) motivation in accusing them of receiving millions of pesos through illegal fund transfer from various government agencies.
Esperon this week said, “gusto lang nilang idivert yung attention,” referring to Gabriela’s receipt of donations by foreign countries, which is a flagrant violation of the Constitution and the Commission on Election (Comelec) rules. “Siguro yung kanilang reaction ay misplaced, wala sa lugar and probably will even say na self-serving. Self-serving because probably they want to cover some things, especially on the part of Gabriela. Alam ninyo naman na 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. Kaya parang binabawian ba kami. Well, that’s welcomed,” 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.” “Hindi biru-biro yung mga amount of funds, which were received by them,” he said.
“No fund transfers”
Esperon said “we (the Task Force) are grouped into clusters or in the form of a joint regional or provincial or municipal task forces. There is 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 commonly understood objectives,” he stressed.
Emphasizing that the NTF ELCAC did not violate any law, Esperon though 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.
While Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) 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.
“There was no transfer of funds to the NTF-ELCAC because the fund in question was for the DILG’s Retooled Community Support Program (RCSP) at the barangay level which is our significant contribution to the objectives of EO 70.”
The Philippine National Police Deputy Chief for Administration Lt. Gen. Joselito Vera Cruz also maintained “no anomaly or irregularity” on the unused funds for the agency’s anti-insurgency drive.
Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) Deputy Director General Lina Sarmiento also 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. The allegation that a P160-million TESDA fund supposedly transferred to NTF-ELCAC is untrue, adding, that news reports were misleading. “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 (IPs).”
While Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Undersecretary Rene Glen Paje said the agency is currently addressing the alleged deficiencies in the required documents for the P5.3-million fund used for the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) and the Livelihood Settlement Grants (LGS) for former rebels as cited in the COA report. He assured their field office is already collaborating with different agencies to retrieve the required documents and to attest to the eligibility of the beneficiaries.