The Sentrong Alyansa ng mga Mamamayan para sa Bayan (SAMBAYANAN), a group of former Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) members who have peacefully reintegrated back into mainstream society, has expressed “in strongest terms” its disapproval to the decision of the senators to slash the bulk of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC)’s budget for the Barangay Development Program (BDP) for 2022.

“We, the Sentrong Alyansa ng mga Mamamayan para sa Bayan or SAMBAYANAN together with different Former Rebels and Peoples’ Organizations nationwide, collectively express in strongest terms our disapproval to the budget cut of NTF-ELCAC’s Barangay Development Program for 2022,” the group said in an open letter addressed to the Senate.

Senator Sonny Angara, chair of the Senate committee on finance, earlier said they took the bulk of the NTF-ELCAC’s budget and realigned it to fund pandemic response programs.

The NTF-ELCAC submitted a proposed PHP28.12 billion for the barangay development programs for next year but the Senate drastically reduced it to just PHP4 billion.

“As former cadres, members and mass supporters of the Communist Terrorist Groups, we only have our high desire for peaceful and progressive communities of peasants and Indigenous Peoples that have been wrapped in violence and chaos because of the reign of terror of the terrorist group we once served,” the group told the Senate.

It said the NTF-ELCAC has been effective in addressing the root causes of communist insurgency at the grassroots level, paving the way for development and social services to be channeled unimpeded to communities long been deprived and neglected by the government, and were made haven of communist insurgents.

“The (coronavirus disease 2019) Covid-19 pandemic and the long-running communist terrorist-insurgency need not be considered as contradicting government health and security concerns. Both must be treated as co-existing parallel priorities that need to be decisively addressed by the government,” SAMBAYANAN said.

The group added that there is no need to compare and contradict the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the CPP-NPA-National Democratic Front (NDF) communist terrorism.

It added that both issues must be treated appropriately as parallel national priorities for national security interest.

“We respect the remarks of other people on NTF-ELCAC but it wouldn’t be impartial if the ‘alleged’ red-tagging is the only variable to measure the task force’s performance,” the group further said.

It added that the accomplishments and victories of the entire government and different stakeholders on the ground against communist insurgency have been outstanding as tens of thousands of CPP-NPA leaders and members have surrendered and have pleaded allegiance back to the government and thousands of top wanted communist terrorist leaders were arrested.

“These can’t be made possible without the resolute commitment of the task force. This is every Filipino’s victory,” SAMBAYANAN said.

Through the funding of the BBP for 2022, sustainment of community developments will be made assured to effectively transform every community from being backward and impoverished into developed and abundant, it added.

“Only then we can attain peace and development in every community,” it said. (PNA)