The Communist Party of the Philippines asserted on 14 February that the PhP 16.4 billion (US$ 336.4 million) Barangay Development Program funds of the Duterte government’s National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) is nothing but military pork barrel -- discretionary funds subject to corruption by military officials.

Marco Valbuena, CPP Information Officer, said “like Congressional pork barrel, the BDP will be subject to corruption in the form of kickbacks in infrastructure projects, pocketed by both local government officials and military officers in connivance with the contractors.”

Duterte’s National Security Adviser Gen. Hermogenes Esperon earlier announced that the BDP aims to dissuade poor Filipinos from supporting the CPP and New People’s Army. He said the funds will go to the construction of roads, schools, water systems, sanitation facilities and health centers and to reforestation activities. He denied that the BDP funds will be pocketed by Duterte’s military and local officials.

Valbuena noted however, that Duterte’s hometown Davao City will get the lion’s share of the BDP funds. 82 villages in the city are listed as recipients of project funds. “Next to Davao City,” he said, “nine of the ten top provinces with the biggest number of villages in the BDP are all in Mindanao.” Davao City is in Mindanao island.

Valbuena said that the BDP plan for “uniform distribution of PhP 20 million (US$ 410,000) to each village regardless of population size, reveals that the amount is merely to give local officials equal kickback opportunities.” Populations in Philippine villages or barangays range widely from several hundred to tens of thousands.

“Lastly, the NTF-ELCAC claims that at least PhP 3 million of the funds going to each barangay will go to constructing schools,” Valbuena said. “However, 26% of these barangays have already at least one school. In Region II, 89 barangays have schools, in Region XI, 83 barangays and in Davao City, 70.”

He said the Duterte program does not address the problems of landlessness, widespread hunger, oppression and exploitation of poor peasants, land grabbing and usurpation of the ancestral domains of minority communities. Social discontent and the armed conflict in the country are rooted in these problems.