[Defund NTF-ELCAC] Rechannel red-tagging fund to health and economic recovery

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) welcomes the reduction of the proposed 2022 budget for the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC). “We laud the Senators who heeded the cries of thousands of victims of red-tagging and political persecution, and took action to defund the NTF ELCAC. There are certainly more pertinent programs deserving of billions of funding, especially amid a pandemic and an economic crisis. Alisan ng pondo ang red-tagging at ilipat sa pondong pang ayuda at kalusugan,” KMP National Chairperson Danilo Ramos says.

Senator Sonny Angara revealed yesterday that the Senate Finance Committee slashed the P28-billion proposed 2022 budget for the NTF-ELCAC to P4 billion, realigning the rest to health programs. KMP has called for the reallocation of NTF-ELCAC funds for boosting agricultural and food production.

The peasant leader insists that NTF-ELCAC’s much touted “Barangay Development Program” is in reality the “generals’ pork.” “The P20-million budget per barangay under the BDP is allocated at the whims of military men and without an ounce of transparency. To access it, soldiers and local government units are compelled to gather civilians by force or coercion, and present them as so-called “rebel surrenderees.” We can present at least a dozen cases,” Ramos explains. 

An August report from Radyo Natin Guimba documented soldiers from the 3rd Civil Military Operations of the Philippine Military urging farmers in Nueva Ecija to “surrender” as rebels in exchange for ayuda. Since September this year, hundreds of coconut farmers from different towns in Quezon province were forced to surrender under the guise of the so-called Reorientation and Redirection of CPP-NPA-NDF affected Mass Organizations or CAMO, obviously a sinister redtagging plot linking legitimate farmers organizations to the CPP-NPA-NDF. 

KMP also supported the call for an investigation on the misuse of NTF-ELCAC funds in 2020 or earlier. Ramos demanded that “the trigger-happy stooges behind NTF-ELCAC must be held accountable for their many sins against the people!”

Ramos added that in many cases, those who resist to “surrender” are threatened with arbitrary arrest or even execution. He cited the recent case of Central Luzon peasant organizer Steve Abua who was abducted by suspected military men. Abua was last seen last November 6. His relatives were contacted by the abductors who demanded nothing but Abua to turn a new leaf in life or “magbagong buhay.” 

Former KMP Vice Chairperson and veteran Central Luzon peasant leader Joseph Canlas was also incessantly red-tagged before he was arrested last March 30 under trumped-up charges. Canlas’s health quickly deteriorated before dying under detention on May 11. 

Ramos urged lawmakers to stand their ground against any pushback from the military, asserting that “civilian supremacy is a cornerstone of any democracy.” #

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