National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon slammed Bayan Muna Rep. Ferdinand Gaite for suspecting as pork barrel the P16.1 billion budget sought by the National Task Force-Ending Local Communist Armed Conflict intended for barangay development programs.
“I am amused, as much as I am dismayed by Bayan Muna Representative Ferdinand Gaite’s statement alleging that the NTF-ELCAC has sought funds that are intended to be pork barrel,” Esperon said.
He also questioned Gaite’s motive in objecting to the proposed budget for the program, which Esperon described as a tool to empower and develop vulnerable communities in geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas.
Esperon said the program intends to address the economic deprivation brought by the infiltration and influence of the New People’s Army in the countryside.
“Why are you against community development and empowerment, which is exactly the mandate of the Task Force created by this administration? Who stands to benefit from the continued stunting and underdevelopment
of our communities but those who feed on strife, want, and despair?” Esperon asked.
The Task Force has already identified 1432 barangays which have been cleared of NPA influence and are ripe for government intervention, while 2,379 villages have yet to be cleared of the influence by the communist terrorist group.
“These are communities whose growth and progress have been stunted by the presence and influence of the Communist Terrorist Group,” Esperon said.
Esperon said that Gaite’s strenuous objections and allegations is an attempt to “make it appear that they are fighting for the poor, the marginalized and those with less in life.”
“Their ideology is dependent upon the existence of conflict, strife and deprivation within society. Specifically, the lifeblood of their movement is based on the recruitment of people who have grievances against the government. Therefore, it is in their best interests to maintain the status quo of want and discontent in order to fuel their cause,” Esperon said.
“Conversely, when our society has freed itself from the burdens of poverty, hunger, injustice and underdevelopment, there remains no valid justification for the existence of the CTG movement. In truth, this is the reason why they are vehemently opposed to any form of development or progress to improve the living conditions of our vulnerable communities,” he added.
He also dispelled the notion that the funds for BDP would be used to further aggravate the peace and order situation in the countryside.
Esperon said that every cleared barangay from NPA influence stands to receive various developmental projects, including P12-M farm to market roads; P3-M for school buildings; P2-M for water and sanitation; P1.5-M for the national greening program; P1.5-M for health stations and other projects worth P20-M each.
Esperon said that for the past several years, the CPP and the NPA have brought misery to poor communities even as he said that a large number of residents in remote areas no longer support the CPP/NPA.
He added that eliminating the existence of the CPP/NPA is part of the “whole of government approach” where all government agencies work together to formulate effective and efficient ways to uplift the living conditions of poor communities.