Drilon: Use P19B anti-communist fund for COVID-19 vaccine

Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said Monday that opposition senators would push for realigning the P19-billion proposed budget for the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac) to purchase COVID-19 vaccines.

Drilon said NTF-Elcac’s should be spent for vaccination and housing programs, adding anti-communist agency’s projects could be postponed until 2022.

“That is what the anti-insurgency fund looks like today—it’s a lump-sum appropriation of P19 billion to so-called 822 barangays. We don’t have opportunity to examine whether these 822 barangays will need funds, will need farm-to-market roads, housing units, school buildings, etc because this is precisely what the [Supreme Court] ruled as unconstitutional,” Drilon said.

President Vicente Sotto III and Sen. Sonny Angara, Senate committee chair, opposed reallocating the P19-billion allocation for NTF-Elcac.

The is about to deliberate on the proposed P4.5-trillion national budget for 2021, which showed that the NTF-Elcac budget is bigger than major government agencies.

“This prohibition should apply to both the executive and the legislative branch. We cannot have a lump sum and leave to the NTF-Elcac the authority to point to the projects and barangays where these funds will be devoted,” Drilon said.

Drilon: Use P19B anti-communist fund for COVID-19 vaccine

However, Drilon clarified that the opposition senators did not contradict the government’s anti-insurgency campaign but only wanted to “set the correct priorities.”

“The 2021 budget cannot be a ‘-as-usual’ budget. This is the first time that our country is confronted with a very heavy responsibility in terms of the pandemic and the typhoons, the critical housing needs,” he said.

Drilon said he observed that the 2021 budget showed the government’s “skewed” priorities.

“It still gives the highest priority to the security sector, which to me, this can be deferred for 2022. We need for 2021 heavy government spending to restore public confidence in our ability to address the pandemic,” Drilon said.

The senator said the government would need more funds to purchase COVID-19 vaccines for about 70 percent of 105 million Filipinos.

“At P500 per person, that [would] require an allocation of P30 billion. That should roughly require anywhere from P32 to P35 billion to inoculate 60 to 70 million of Filipinos,” he said.