The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) reported on July 7 that P16.24 billion had been released to local government units for various projects in barangays which had been “cleared” of insurgency.
The amount represents 99% of the P16.44 billion funding for the Barangay Development Program (BDP) under the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC). The inter-agency body was created in December 2018 through Executive Order No. 70 to implement the Duterte administration’s “whole-of-nation” approach to achieve inclusive and sustainable peace.
In his 2020 State of the Nation Address (SONA), President Rodrigo Duterte underscored the need to “provide interventions and implement” the BDP in pursuit of “peace and order and development in the countryside.”
He enjoined local government units and “every agency of the government, including the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” to participate in implementing the BDP.
The program involves all government agencies in rehabilitating 822 barangays across 13 regions which the NTF-ELCAC had identified as former guerilla fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines – New People’s Army – National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).
Each barangay was allotted P20 million for livelihood projects. Region 11 (Davao Region), including Duterte’s hometown Davao City, received 50%, or P8.56 billion, of the anti-insurgency budget for 607 projects, of which 498 were infrastructures.
In a statement on June 11, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Carlito Galvez Jr. assured that the government will continue to use the whole-of-nation approach “as an instrument to put an end to the local communist armed conflict, and bring a just and lasting peace” to the people. It was for this reason, he said, that the government rejected calls to resume peace talks with the CPP-NPA-NDF, saying that EO 70 has rendered the communist movement irrelevant.
In line with this, Duterte said in his speech at the 75th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) last September that he was “committed to rebuild stricken communities and address the root causes of terrorism and violent extremism” in the Philippines even as the country grapples with the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
VERA Files Fact Check tracked how the Duterte administration handled its peace agenda:
PROMISE: Implement the Barangay Development Program
“We are pursuing a whole-of-nation approach to bring peace and order and development in the countryside. We need to provide interventions and implement the Barangay Development Program. […] every agency of the government including the Armed Forces of the Philippines should participate. […] We have made significant strides in the past four years, but we need the support of local government leaders. We need your help to implement the Barangay Development Program.” (SONA 2020)
Financial statements of 2,281 projects have been approved under BDP as of July 22, according to the program’s Project Monitoring System. A total of 1,798 projects, or 78.83% involve infrastructure development such as road construction and improvement.
The government allotted P20 million to each of the 822 barangays identified as “cleared” from insurgency from 2016 to 2019, based on the Department of Budget and Management’s (DBM) Local Budget Circular No. 135 released last January.
Six months later, P16.24 billion of the P16.44 billion fund was released to the local government units, according to a report from National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. and Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año.
This accounts for 99% of the total project funding for rehabilitation and development projects such as infrastructure construction, health stations, housing, COVID-19 immunization program, and agricultural development, among others.
However, in its 2020 report, the Commission on Audit (COA) flagged the Philippine National Police (PNP) for having hundreds of millions of anti-insurgency funds unspent as a member of the NTF-ELCAC.
PNP’s Regional Office in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (PRO BAR) spent nothing of the P40 million allocated fund as part of the anti-insurgency task force.
COA stated that PRO BAR’s funds were “not obligated” due to non-preparation of activities or expenses in line with the project, as well as time constraint and late release of funds.
Lawmakers have since called on the NTF-ELCAC to account for the unspent 2020 funds. PNP Chief Guillermo Eleazar said the police force has until December to spend the money, quoting the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) in claiming that the fund is deemed as a “continuing appropriation.”
PROMISE: Fast-track establishment of a regional government in Bangsamoro
“It is my hope that the Bangsamoro Transition will fast-track the establishment of regional government that will secure a comfortable life for Muslim brothers and sisters, and all indigenous communities in the Bangsamoro Regions.” (SONA 2019)
To generate funds for the implementation of the Bangsamoro Organic Law, the government is in talks with the Intergovernmental Relations Body (IGRB) and the Special Intergovernmental Fiscal Policy Board (IFPB) to speed up the purchase of properties in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
The proceeds of these properties, which are outside the jurisdiction of Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), are geared toward funding the Bangsamoro Government’s projects.
However, with less than a year to complete its shift to the Bangsamoro Parliament, the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) is furthering calls to extend the transition period up until 2025.
This, despite Duterte taking a “neutral” stance on granting an extension to the interim parliament, according to Palace Spokesperson Harry Roque in a June 28 press briefing.
The Bangsamoro Organic Law, a “milestone” signed into law in July 2018, provided a three-year transition period for the Bangsamoro Parliament. This was slated only up until 2022, the same year when Duterte will step down from office.
Prior to his neutrality, the president supported BTA’s plea for an extension, according to Galvez in November 2020.
Galvez said that the three years given to the interim parliament is not realistic and, for this reason, the president “agrees to the possible extension.”
PROMISE: Resume peace talks with the CPP-NPA-NDF
“Kayong mga Left, I will not talk to you. Why should I?” (SONA 2017)
“To immediately stop violence on the ground, restore peace in the communities and provide an enabling environment conducive to the resumption of the peace talks. I am now announcing a unilateral ceasefire with the CPP/NPA/NDF effective immediately, and call on our Filipinos in the National Democratic Front and its forces to respond accordingly.” (SONA, 2016)
There will be no resumption of peace talks in the near future. Duterte declared so during his weekly Talk to the People on Dec. 8, 2020.
“So for all intents and purposes, I would say the ceasefire is dead and there is no… the peace talks between the NDF, NPA pati ‘yung — isali na lang natin ‘yung legal fronts nila, NPA, NDF pati kayong lahat,” Duterte said then.
Calls to resume the peace talks were also rejected by Galvez following a bomb attack in Barangay Anas, Masbate on June 6.
The CPP-NPA claimed “full responsibility” for the blast, which resulted in the death of a union leader and a local athlete who were found with gunshot wounds, and injured a minor.
In a June 11 statement, Galvez referred to the whole-of-nation approach as the government’s solution in ending local armed conflict.
Official Gazette of the Philippines, EXECUTIVE ORDER NO. 70, Dec. 4, 2018
Department of Budget and Management (DBM), SUPPORT TO BARANGAY DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM OF THE NTF-ELCAC, Dec. 28, 2020
National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), Barangay Development Program, Accessed July 15, 2021
RTVMalacañang Official Youtube Channel, 75th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (Speech) 9/22/2020, Sept. 22, 2020
Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO), Statement of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte during the General Debate of the 75th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, Sept. 22, 2020
On the Barangay Development Program
- National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), Barangay Development Program – Project Monitoring System, Accessed July 16, 2021
- Department of Budget and Management (DBM), Local Budget Circular No. 135, Jan. 30, 2021
- Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), DILG: P16.24B or 99% of Barangay Development Fund released to LGUs, July 7, 2021
- Inquirer.net, DILG: 99% of dev’t funds for ‘Red-free’ barangays released, July 8, 2021
- Philstar.com, 99% ng BDP naipamahagi na — Esperon, July 7, 2021
- National Security Council, National Security Officials, Accessed July 17, 2021
- Philippine Information Agency, DILG: P16.24B or 99% of Barangay Development Fund released to LGUs, July 7, 2021
- Rappler, NTF-ELCAC releases P16 billion to 812 ‘NPA-free’ barangays, July 13, 2021
- Commission on Audit (COA), PNP Observations and Recommendations (Part 2), Accessed July 17, 2021
- ABS-CBN News, Senators want NTF-ELCAC to account for millions in unspent 2020 funds, July 15, 2021
- Inquirer.net, PNP used only 12% of anti-insurgency funds – COA, July 15, 2021
- GMA News Online, Drilon: COA findings on PNP anti-insurgency funds show NTF-ELCAC budget for 2021, 2022 unnecessary, July 15, 2021
- Philippine National Police (PNP) Official Website, ELEAZAR: UNUSED 2020 NTF-ELCAC FUND INTACT, TO BE SPENT WISELY, July 15, 2021
On the Bangsamoro Government
- Department of Finance (DOF), National Gov’t, BARMM hold back-to-back meetings to speed up implementation of Bangsamoro Organic Law, July 15, 2021
- Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), BTA backs transition extension to properly implement agreements, Nov. 18, 2020
- Bangsamoro Government Official Facebook Page, WATCH | Five minute video on why there is a need to extend the transition period of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) until 2025, May 14, 2021
- PTV Philippines Official Youtube Channel, PANOORIN: Press briefing with Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque | June 28, 2021, June 28, 2021
- Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO), Press Briefing of Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, June 28, 2021
- Official Gazette of the Philippines, REPUBLIC ACT NO. 11054: AN ACT PROVIDING FOR THE ORGANIC LAW FOR THE BANGSAMORO AUTONOMOUS REGION IN MUSLIM MINDANAO,, July 27, 2018
- Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Official Facebook Page, Anniversary of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Jan. 21, 2021
- Inquirer.net, Duterte OK to extend BARMM transition – Galvez, Nov. 27, 2020
- CNN Philippines, Duterte backs extension of Bangsamoro transition, but Palace says coordination with Congress needed, Nov. 26, 2020
- GMA Network, Galvez: Duterte agreed to possible extension of Bangsamoro transition period, Nov. 26, 2020
- Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, Extension of Bangsamoro transition reasonable, necessary— Galvez, Nov. 26, 2020
On Peace Talks with the CPP-NPA-NDF
- Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO), Talk to the People of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), Dec. 7, 2020
- RTVMalacañang Official Facebook Page, Kumusta Po Mahal Kong Kababayan | Meeting on COVID-19 Concerns and Talk to the People on COVID-19, Dec. 7, 2020
- Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, STATEMENT OF THE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER ON THE PEACE PROCESS ON RENEWED CALLS FOR THE RESUMPTION OF NATIONAL PEACE TALKS WITH THE COMMUNIST TERRORIST GROUP (CTG), June 11, 2021
- Philippine Revolution Web Central (PRWC), On the June 6 Masbate tragedy, June 8, 2021
- Inquirer.net, Masbate land mine blasts kill 2 civilians who were ‘mistakenly identified as military’, June 8, 2021
- Rappler, Masbate blast also kills union leader, June 7, 2021
ABS-CBN News, PNP sets manhunt vs Masbate blast suspects that killed footballer Kieth Absalon, June 7, 2021
(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)