MANILA – National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Jr. said militant members of the House of Representatives should rather call themselves regressive, not progressive, for opposing the Barangay Development Program (BDP) that aims to bring government projects to communities cleared of the influence of communist terrorists.
"Iyan ang BDP na tinututulan ng sinasabi nilang progressive bloc sa Congress. Paano sila naging progressive eh tinututulan nila ang development. Ang tawag sa kanila dapat ay regressive (The ones claiming to be members of the progressive bloc in Congress are against the BDP. How can they be progressive if they are against development? They should be called 'regressive')," Esperon said in an interview with the Cabinet Report program hosted by Communications Secretary Martin Andanar on Aug. 20.
The BDP is the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC hallmark program to bring government projects development projects in conflict-afflicted and geographically isolated villages that have been considered "cleared" from the influence of communist rebels.
Esperon, who is NTF-ELCAC vice-chairperson, slammed the "Makabayan Bloc", which is known to support the Communist Party of the Philippines – New People’s Army – National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA), for the numerous deaths caused by the more than 50-year insurgency in the country.
"Hindi rin sila Makabayan Bloc kung hindi 'Kamatayan Bloc', dahil sa kanila ang daming namamatay (They cannot be called 'Makabayan Bloc' (patriotic bloc) instead they should be rightly called the 'Kamatayan Bloc' for the numerous deaths they caused)," he added.
The BDP has initially identified 822 barangays nationwide that were former guerilla fronts of the CPP-NPA-NDF for projects such as farm-to-market roads, classrooms, water and sanitation systems, health stations, and livelihood.
Of the PHP19 billion total budget of the NTF-ELCAC for 2021, PHP16 billion is allotted for the development of 822 barangays cleared of insurgency. Each recipient barangay would receive PHP20 million.
Next years’ budget allocation for the BDP is intended for 1,406 barangays mostly located in Samar and the Bicol Region, compared to the 822 barangays in 2021.
"The funds for the BBP are directly released to the provincial and the city governments who will undertake, administer or contract out the BDP projects. That's the bulk of it," Esperon earlier said.
He rued the fact that these militant groups managed to attract the attention of other legislative and non-legislative officials in their bid to block the funding for BDP.
These officials, he said, are calling for the diversion of the NTF-ELCAC funds to help finance the government's ongoing response against the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
"Teka muna, iyong ayuda ay ibang programa iyan, alam natin na ang Covid-19, talagang iyan ang clear and present danger na talagang inaatupag natin (Wait a minute, the aid for Covid-19 is another program and we know that Covid-19 is a clear and present danger that we are managing)," Esperon said.
Despite the preoccupation with the Covid-19 pandemic, he said we must remember that the country is facing political-security threats from communist terrorists.
The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.
The NDF has been formally designated as a terrorist organization by the Anti-Terrorism Council on June 23, 2021, citing it as “an integral and separate part” of the CPP-NPA created in April 1973 (PNA)