DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 16 Nov) – Former Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio has challenged the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte to pause any upcoming funding for the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) in the days leading to next year’s national elections.
Speaking during the online launch of the Davao for Leni Movement, Justice Carpio said the NTF-ELCAC funding could be tied to vote buying, one of at least three obstacles of an opposition slate running against the administration.
He said he was thankful that the Senate has cut the funding for the civilian agency from P19 billion in 2021 to P4 billion in 2022.
However, with barangays “qualifying” for a P20-million disbursement upon proof of being cleared of insurgency, Carpio said the administration could “debilitate” the opposition through the funding.
“This really means the President can dole out P20 million to any barangay he chooses. This will debilitate the opposition in the 2022 elections,” Carpio said to a group of convenors of the Davao for Leni Movement.
Carpio said the NTF-ELCAC should be subjected to the same rules governing prohibitions of public funds for public works and social services 45 days before the election day, according to Batas Pambansa 881 or the Omnibus Election Code.
“I would want the disbursements under the NTF-ELCAC to be suspended at least during the same period,” he said.
The approval for any budget for the NTF-ELCAC in 2022 must contain a similar prohibition, he added.
Eyeing possible shortcuts through presidential realignments via the government’s For Later Release (FLR) System, Carpio noted that the President may resort to realigning savings from the last two months of 2021 “if the Senate rejects the NTF-ELCAC budget for 2022.”
Carpio said there were some P100 billion from the 2021 budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways that has been impounded by the President through the FLR system.
Aside from vote buying, the two other major opposition challenges are watching the polls and an army of trolls, which Carpio attributed to a well-funded Marcos and Duterte machinery.
“We need to protect our votes on election day to ensure a fair, clean and honest election,” he said.
Carpio said he was suspicious of the possible involvement of Dennis Uy-owned firm F2 Logistics.
The Commission on Elections has recently signed a P535.9-million contract with F2 Logistics to distribute vote counting machines, ballots, and other paraphernalia for the upcoming elections.
To prevent any anomaly, Carpio said opposition coalition 1Sambayan has to mobilize around 190,000 volunteers nationwide, translating to at least two poll watchers in every precinct.
The poll watchers need to ensure that the random manual audit and random manual voting required by law is conducted at the close of voting on election day.
“The results of the random manual voting, random manual audit must tally with the election returns. And if they do not tally, it could show that the flash cards have been tampered,” he said.
The poll watchers are also given the responsibility of tracing the election returns from the precinct onwards by taking pictures of election returns and making sure that the printouts do not have any predetermined outcomes.
Meanwhile, Carpio accused the Duterte and Marcos camps of hiring an “army or trolls.”
“These two political dynasties are oozing with money,” Carpio said. “And only they can afford the billions of pesos required to hire troll farms with hi-tech algorithms to paint themselves as saints and saviors and to discredit their opponents as the devils and enemies of the people.”
“China is helping the Dutertes in the digital battlespace because as exposed by Facebook themselves, many of the troll farms supporting the Dutertes themselves are based in China,” Carpio said.
He added that the opposition is growing its own volunteer-based digital warriors to counter troll armies as it could not afford the millions of dollars’ worth allegedly funded by the camps.
“This is an uphill battle but we have to engage our opponents here. And we cannot afford to abandon this digital battlespace. We know that because of the pandemic, the campaigning will be done mostly in the digital space and in radio and television,” Carpio said. (Yas D. Ocampo / MindaNews)