Whither the NTF-Elcac's funds for barangay development?

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Since being initiated by National Task Force (NTF)-Elcac in 2021, the bogus Support to Barangay Development Program (SBDP) has received a massive ₱28.4 billion fund. Like the “surrender” campaign, “balik-aral” (return-to-school) and other counter-insurgency programs, this has lined the pockets of military officers and bureaucrats, through kickbacks in infrastructure projects in farflung sitios and barangays.

In three years, NTF-Elcac claims funding 3,187 barangay projects. This supposedly includes construction of roads, schools, irrigation and health centers, and sanitation and reforestation programs.

The program purportedly aims to improve people’s lives to make them reject the path of armed struggle. In fact, none of these projects respond to the roots of widespread poverty, hunger, oppression and exploitation.

These NTF-Elcac projects also demonstrate how the delivery of government “services” and “development,” especially in the countryside, has become militarized.

Slow projects, quick kickbacks

Apart from providing no meaningful changes, implementation of the handful of SBDP projects are snail-paced. The NTF-Elcac has yet to produce a 2023 status report of SBDP projects.

For 2022, the SBDP received ₱5.6244 billion. From the agency’s own report on August 29, only 52% of the 1,719 planned projects were completed in 2022. Half of these were farm-to-market roads which paved the way for plantations, mines, ecotourism and other big businesses.

In 2021, only 26 or 1% of 2,318 SBDP projects were completed, according to a November 2021 report to the senate. In that period, more than 900 were in the pre-procurement stage, 700 were already in the procurement stage, while 560 were in the implementation stages. At present, NFT-Elcac claims 87% of the projects were completed after more than two years.

“Infrastructure” projects are among the most widespread sources of kickbacks by government bureaucrats. The SBDP was started to give generals their milking cows to ensure their loyalty to the ruling clique.

In the past three years, Davao region military officers and complicit contractors were the biggest profiteers. The region got the lion’s share of ₱5.22 billion, followed by Caraga (₱4.53 billion), Bicol region (₱3.82 billion) and Northern Mindanao (₱3.21 billion). Among provinces and cities, Bukidnon received the highest funds of ₱1.77 billion, followed by Davao de Oro (₱1.75 billion), Davao City (₱1.66 billion), Agusan del Sur (₱1.28 billion), Sorsogon (₱1.3 billion) and Iloilo (₱1.19 billion).

SBDP in Cagayan Valley

Among the regions, Cagayan Valley received the third lowest. The 5th ID got only ₱560.3 million SBDP funds in 2021-2023. The largest portion went to Cagayan—₱304.3 million for 41 barangays. Funding for Isabela, Quirino and Nueva Vizcaya started only in 2022.

In the region’s 105 barangays covered by the program, only 20 barangays have ongoing projects. One is the over-priced palay solar dryer and farm shed in Barangay Anurturu in Rizal town, Cagayan and barangays Apayao and Villa Reyno in Piat town. Meanwhile, none of the claimed rural farm-to-market road projects are new, but are merely rehabilitation and upgrades. Among these is the still incomplete ₱15 million road in Barangay Minanga, Rizal, inaugurated in April 2021.

The AFP grandiosely claims that barangays under SBDP have been “cleared” through the Retooled Community Support Progran (RCSP). However, of the 41 endorsed Cagayan barangays, only 37 were covered by RCSP. This indicates the selection of recipients is arbitrary, fabricated and vacuous. Favored are towns controlled by despotic landlords and outright counter-revolutionary bureaucrats and dynasties (Piat, Santo Niño, Tuao, Rizal) and those near military and police headquarters (Barangay Bangag in Lallo, Barangay Casambalangan in Santa Ana, Barangays Virgina and Balanni in Santo Nino, and Barangay Santo Domingo in Piat). The RTF-Elcac chief meanwhile was rewarded for being a minion and lapdog of the 5th ID when his turf, Tuao town in Cagayan, got ₱26.4 million.

Funds for 2024

In the 2024 proposed budget, the US-Marcos regime plans to allot ₱10.34 billion for NTF-Elcac. This includes ₱8.64 billion for the SBDP which supposedly will go to 864 unnamed barangays. Progressive groups and the Makabayan bloc questioned the anomalous NTF-Elcac budget. The bloc is also pushing for the auditing of NTF-Elcac funds to scrutinize expenditure of billions of public funds.

Whither the NTF-Elcac's funds for barangay development?