Bayan Muna urges dismantling of NTF-ELCAC amid red-tagging issues
MANILA, Philippines — Party-list group Bayan Muna has called for the dismantlement of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) amid issues hounding the task force regarding red-tagging, urging fellow lawmakers in the Senate to consider removing its funds.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate and Rep. Ferdinand Gaite said on Friday that the NTF-ELCAC should not receive taxpayers’ money if all it does was spread lies and disinformation about people expressing legitimate dissent.
This request from the two lawmakers came after NTF-ELCAC member and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Southern Luzon Command chief Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. received flak for warning actress Liza Soberano against being associated with Gabriela Women’s Party-list — which some perceived as a threat.
In his statement, Parlade said that Soberano should not be subjected to red-tagging — or labeling people as sympathizers of the communist armed movement — as she is “not yet” a member of the New People’s Army. He then said that fellow actress and activist Angel Locsin would not tell Soberano the truth about the former’s sister who is allegedly an NPA member.
“We have here a task force that is only spreading lies, disinformation and fake news that would be funded by around P19 billion of taxpayers money that could have been allocated to fighting the Covid pandemic, give aid to those left jobless by the pandemic and help our agriculture,” Zarate said.
“Its primary mouthpiece, Gen. Parlade’ s only occupation now is to malign, red-tag or terrorist-tag any group or individuals like Liza Soberano, Angel Locsin, Ella Colmenares and Catriona Gray, or anyone who opposes or criticizes the anti-people policy of the Duterte administration. So why waste hard earned money on this fake news agency and just dismantle it,” he added.
According to Zarate, the P19 billion funding placed for NTF-ELCAC should just be allocated somewhere else, probably to help the government in its COVID-19 response.
In a post on social media, celebrity Angel Locsin — whose sister Ella Colmenares was tagged by Parlade as an NPA member — also said that NTF-ELCAC funds be allocated to soldiers on the frontlines and other Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) departments.
Parlade was reacting on Wednesday to Soberano’s attendance in an online forum hosted by Gabriela, warning her that Locsin would not tell her about Colmenares’ NPA membership. But a lot of people slammed this move from Parlade, saying that it is a veiled threat against women activists.
Groups have pointed out that Soberano merely spoke about women’s rights, and nothing about left-leaning or communist ideologies. For Parlade’s side, he insisted that he did not mean to threaten any of the artists, as he was only advising Soberano.
Meanwhile, Gaite said that NTF-ELCAC funds might be misused, like how state authorities manipulated photos of alleged rebel surrenderees.
“Gen. Esperon further appeals that this fund allocation seeks to develop our rural communities, we then ask: why not give the control of these funds directly to the concerned agencies, the ones that have the lawful mandate?” Gaite asked.
“Why does this fund need to go to and needs approval of NTF-ELCAC instead of going directly into the implementation of projects that would spur rural development?” he added. “It also begs to be asked, why ask for control of these funds during a preparatory year for the 2022 elections? Why dangle this multi-million carrot now?”
Parlade again found himself in controversy’s way after he asked earlier whether Manila Mayor Isko Moreno is welcoming NPA rebels into the city after the latter ordered the removal of tarpaulins declaring the Communist Party of the Philippines, the National Democratic Front, and the NPA as persona-non-grata.
Gaite asked whether the funds of NTF-ELCAC would be used to produce similar materials.
“Would this fund be used to dismantle legitimate people’s organizations including the base of support of progressive party-lists—an aim the NTF-ELCAC so desperately belabors itself with? Would this fund be used to hang tarpaulin spreading black propaganda and fake news?” Gaite questioned.