Abante Sambayanan, a party list composed of former members of the rebel group New Peoples’ Army (NPA), is pushing for the conversion of the National Task Force on Ending Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) into a law.

Abante Sambayanan nominee in the coming May 9 elections, Jeffrey “Ka Eric” Celiz, said they want to further strengthen NTF-ELCAC to ensure the continuity of its programs and finally put an end to armed struggle. NTF ELCAC was created through Executive Order 70, signed by President Rodrigo Duterte in December 2018.

Celiz was in Puerto Princesa City last Saturday for the fun bike ride dubbed “Padyak para sa Kapayapaan” organized by Western Command (WESCOM) together with civil society organizations, KADRE-Palawan, Ugnayan ng Maralitang Sektor-Puerto Princesa City.

“Dapat ma-institutionalize ang NTF ELCAC. Kasama na diyan na masigurong mapopondohan sa next congress ang 1,406 barangays at may dagdag pa kaya almost 2,000 na may BDP (barangay development program) allocation sa kasalukuyan. That’s our number 1 agenda,” Celiz said.

“Kami lang ang party list na nagsusulong at lumalaban para ipagpatuloy ang NTF ELCAC para ipagpatuloy ang barangay development program, which is popondohan ng gobyerno ng P20 million per barangay, ang mga liblib na lugar na dating kinilusan ng NPA at na-clear ng ating AFP,” he added.

If the BDP isn’t used anymore, the NPA could return, he said.

He added that if the program isn’t used, the NPA could come back.

“In the first batch ng pagpapatupad ng BDP, 822 barangays ang na-aprubahan ng P20 million. Kalsada, patubig, irigasyon, at iba pang infrastructure projects. Sabi ng mga barangay na ito, first time kami nakatanggap ng P20 million. For the past 40 years or more, hindi nakatanggap ng kalsada, o anumang proyekto ang mga barangay sa mga liblib at malalayong lugar. Sa termino ng gobyerno, ang tawag dyan ay GIDAS – geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas,” he said.

“Sa second batch, 1,406 barangays, I think kasama ang Palawan dyan, tinigpas ito ng senado at kongreso into P4 million at ang P16 million ay itinabi nila at ginawang unprogrammed expenditures, kaya kawawa ang mga barangay na ito. So isusulong namin na kailangan mapondohan ang mga barangay na ito para hindi na balikan ng NPA,” he added.

He said they are pushing for a mandatory conduct of a nationwide security awareness briefing in schools in order to expose the modus operandi of the CPP-NPA in recruiting members.

He said that this kind of activity will help the students be able to think for themselves and not be swayed by promises.

He added that exposing known members and groups of the CPP is not red-tagging but telling the truth.

“Isusulong namin ang call to action para mailantad ang urban infiltration na ginagawa nila at sasabihin naming this is not red tagging. This is security truth exposition coming from us. There can only be truth to red tagging kapag ang tinuturo mong organizer ng CPP ay yung ordinaryong magbabalut. Pero pag tinuro naming si Sarah Elago, si Neri Colmenares at si Teddy Casiño, at ang mga grupong kilala naming dahil doon kami nanggaling at nakasama namin, hindi yan red tagging,” he explained.

“When people are empowered by information, they are hard to recruit and agitate and radicalize. Yan ang kulang at hindi ginagawa ng gobyerno – walang counter narrative. Walang counter information,” he explained.

Celiz also explained that they formed the Abante Sambayanan party list to counter the infiltration and recruitment activities of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) in the urban sector. He also said their group was not organized by the government.

“Kami ay hindi binuo ng gobyerno taliwas sa sinasabi ng CPP-NPA-NDF na pakawala kami ng gobyerno. Hindi kami pakawala kundi partners kami ng gobyerno. And we are not funded by the government. Yun ang pagkakaiba namin. Kami lang ang party list na lumalaban ng harap-harapan at desidido. Buhay man ay itataya namin laban sa dati naming organisasyon. Kami lang ang party list na gustong tapusin ang 53 years na pagwasak sa ating bayan, tapusin na ang 50,000 namatay at pinatay ng CPP-NPA-NDF,” he stressed.

Aside from NTF ELCAC, Celiz said they are also advocating the limited lifting of the oil deregulation law, promotion of agriculture programs that will uplift the status of the lives of farmers, and equal protection of the rights of the indigenous people, youth, women, and labor sector.

“Dapat i-review ang capability ng gobyerno na mag-centralize ng importation ng langis upang hindi tayo lubhang maapektuhan kapag may digmaan sa middle east o sa Europe na pinanggagalingan ng supply ng langis, para mabigyan ng suporta ng gobyerno na hindi umabot sa P100 ang presyo ng gasoline,” he said.

“At yung mga programs dati na ina-advocate namin para yung presyo ng palay at mais ay maitaas at hindi binabarat ang mga magsasaka at magbubukid. Yung pagprotekta sa karapatan ng mga katutubo, kabataan, kababaihan at mga manggagawa, isusulong pa rin naming,” he added.

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