House Deputy Minority Leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate called on the Senate to consider re-allocating for anti-COVID 19 programs and anti-disaster projects the entire budget sought for 2021 by the National Task Force-To End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).
Zarate aired the appeal as the Senate Committee on Finance has reportedly decided to retain the P19 billion budget proposed by NTF-ELCAC.
The military-backed task force has been accused of engaging in red-tagging activities on suspected communist fronts.
The has not spared the Makabayan bloc and several celebrities who have vehemently denied involvement in communist activities.
Zarate and five other partylist lawmakers comprise the Makabayan bloc in the Lower House.
Zarate said “the Senate should reconsider in giving the whole budget being asked for by the NTF-ELCAC just because it is one of Pres. Duterte’s priority expenditures in this time of pandemic.”
“This continuous red-tagging by government security forces against civilians and citizens produces a chilling effect to speech and conduct, which is detrimental to a healthy democracy,” said the Deputy Minority leader.
“During the House deliberation on the 2021 budget, the Makabayan Bloc has exposed the huge budget allocated in favor of the NTF-ELCAC and decried the measly budget allocated towards health, education and other basic social services,” said the progressive solon.
Meanwhile, the Kabataan Partylist, represented in the Lower House by Rep. Sarah Elago, called for the “rechanneling of the P-19B budget” of NTF-ELCAC, saying that government funds will only go to waste for being used to finance vilification campaign targetting progressive organizations and individuals.
The red-tagging task force is given a drastic 3,000 percent budget increase from last year’s allocation in these trying of times amid the COVID-19 pandemic and following a string of storms and typhoons, the youth organization said.
“We once again reiterate to our fellow legislators that we should prioritize and allocate more funds to education, health and other social services especially now that we are confronted by a pandemic and a worsening economic crisis. Students and teachers alike need gadgets and internet allowance to be able to continue their education amid pandemic,” the Kabataan said in a press statement.