A former Commission on Audit official said the budget of community pantries cannot be audited since its funds are from private donors.
Former officer-in-charge of the COA Heidi Mendoza was responding to National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) spokesperson Lorraine Badoy who earlier called on community pantry donors to ask for “clear accounting” of their donations from community pantry organizers.
“A little lecture on public financial management vs. private financial management. Madam, bago ka po humingi ng accounting for funds given to Community Pantry, be ready to submit an accounting of your discretionary funds,” she said in a Facebook post last Saturday.
“Private funds are freely given, unlike public funds which are usually imposed upon the citizenry,” Mendoza added.
Mendoza, also the former undersecretary-general of the United Nations Office for Internal Oversight Services, said that since donations to the citizen-driven community pantries are “private in nature,” only donors can demand for accounting.
She then challenged NTF-ELCAC’s Badoy to instead make “public” the accounting of its P19 billion budget.
“Now, paano naman po ‘yung accounting ng insurgency funds? Public po ‘yan and we can demand it anytime, ready ka? You ask the donors of Community Pantry to find where the money went… pwede naman… Now, kami naman ang mag-ca-call para gawin niyong public ‘yung accounting niyo,” Mendoza added.
Last Wednesday, Badoy lamented how Maginhawa community pantry organizer Ana Patricia Non have raised half a million. She asked the donors to seek for a “clear accounting” of how their funds were used.
“To those good hearts who have donated their dollars to AP Non, please ask for a clear accounting. Ask where your money went. Make sure it goes to where you want it to go,” Badoy wrote on Facebook.
Badoy then claimed that Non “is a member of the underground mass organization ARMAS. (Artista at Manunulat ng Sambayanan) that believes in the violent overthrow of government.”
“Dami naming nakaharap na ganyan when we went to Europe to break the news to international NGOs that they had been duped by the CPP NPA NDF fronts like IBON, GABRIELA, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, Salugpungan, Save Our Schools Network etc. Poor b*stards couldn’t believe it,” she alleged, red-tagging other groups in the process.
Non responded to Badoy’s challenge and said that she’s looking for volunteers who can help her in the accounting of the monetary donations.
“Ready po, sige po… call out na lang din ako ng mga volunteer na willing tumulong sa akin sa accounting,” she was quoted as saying.
‘Release your fund breakdown’
Some Filipinos agreed with Mendoza’s challenged and also urged the NTF-ELCAC to release a breakdown of how its agency’s billions-budget is being utilized amid the constant red-tagging of groups and individuals.
“Make an accounting of your ‘insurgency funds’ NOW!!!!” a Twitter user said, quote tweeting a post featuring the former state auditor’s Facebook status.
“Don’t be shy. RELEASE YOUR FUND BREAKDOWN AND ACCOUNTING!” another online user exclaimed in support of Mendoza’s call to the agency.
“Tignan natin ‘san pilitin ang liquidation ni Badoy. It’s a public fund. We can demand,” a different Filipino likewise tweeted.
NTF-ELCAC has been previously granted a P19.2 billion budget for 2021.
The public-funded task force was created in 2018 through President Rodrigo Duterte‘s executive order to address causes of armed conflict with communists at the local level.
It has been red tagging individuals and progressive groups who are critical of the administration and its policies.
Senators have called to defund the NTF-ELCAC after one of its spokespersons, Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr., red tagged the pioneer of the community pantry initiatives and even likened the latter to Satan.
The Palace said that the calls to defund the task force are “not justified.” He said that the NTF-ELCAC’s funds are supposedly being used to free villages from threats to security and development.
National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. also said that NTF-ELCAC helps “formerly conflicted communities” attain “a dignified life” through its programs.
Meanwhile, the community pantry initiative was initially set up by Non to help Filipinos who are deeply affected by the re-imposition of the COVID-19 lockdowns.
“The unemployment rate is high, the line for relief goods is long, and Pinoys are hungry,” she said to GMA News Online before.
“We have been demanding a lot, but supplies are not enough. We really need to help each other. Community effort,” Non added.
“Hindi nito masasagot ang root cause ng kagutuman pero okay na din na pantawid gutom sa mga nangangailangan. Mahirap magtrabaho, mag-aral at lumaban habang kumakalam ang tiyan,” she also said in another interview.