MORE than 500 of 822 villages identified as beneficiaries of the Barangay Development Program (BDP), intended for supposed areas that were previously affected by the communist rebellion, have submitted plans on how to spend their allocations set at P20 million each, according to National Security Adviser Hermogenes C. Esperon, Jr. In a statement on Sunday, Mr. Esperon said as of 23 April, a total of 525 barangays have already endorsed their respective programs and projects to the Department of Budget and Management. The BDP’s P16.44-billion fund is part of the 2021 national budget and is implemented in coordination with the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict. “After thorough verification of the proposals at the national level, the BDP package of 483 barangays have already been approved with projects worth P9.66 billion ready for release to the Provincial and City governments for the benefit of barangays under their jurisdiction,” he said. Mr. Esperon made the announcement after calls last week to defund the task force, which received widespread flak over two of its spokespersons’ unverified tagging of alleged communist members and supporters.
Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian, among those who criticized the task force members and called for the removal of their budget, said on Sunday that defunding will not mean canceling existing programs for peace efforts. “I personally support anti-insurgency programs. In fact I voted in 2020 for the funding of the anti-insurgency programs but my decision was based on trust that this will be used accordingly,” he said in Filipino during a radio interview. “If we will defund the (task force) it doesn’t mean the anti-insurgency programs will be lost… we can transfer each of its functions to the appropriate government agencies,” he added. — Gillian M. Cortez