ACT Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro on Friday disclosed that the Commission on Audit (COA) has questioned the P909.5 million special funds received by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) for the implementation of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC in 2021.
During the plenary deliberations of the P15.85 billion 2023 proposed budget of the DAR, Castro said that she received a copy of the report where COA stated that the DAR failed to identify the supposed former rebel beneficiaries of the program.
“I hope the present DAR leadership will correct the mistakes in the past. Based on the COA report, from pages 144 to 151, it stated that the DAR received a total budget of P909.5 million sourced from the 2021 GAA (General Appropriations Act ) of which 59.4 percent of P540.16 million was obligated and distributed in the implementation of the programs and activities to support the NTF-ELCAC,” Castro said.
Castro added that the COA cited various deficiencies in the report of 11 DAR offices.
For his part, Aklan Rep. Teodorico Haresco Jr., who sponsored the DAR proposed budget, denied that the agency received special funds for the NFT-ELCAC.
“We have the assurance of the DAR that there are no such things. As per records of the DAR, these are regular funds and it has not received any special funds for NTF-ELCAC, no budget was downloaded from the DBM (Department of Budget and Management). Maybe COA is somewhat imaginative in saying that,” Haresco said.
Castro contradicted the statement of Haresco, saying instead of denying, the DAR should investigate the COA findings.
“I beg to disagree. The DAR should look into this instead of saying that the COA is just imagining. Millions, billions are being used for the NTL-ELCAC and the funds are just being used for questionable activities,” Castro said.
“Especially now that we are living in a deficit budget, the funds for the insurgency are being wasted,” she added.
Castro noted that the NTLF-ELCAC proposed budget for 2023 even increased.