Parlade wants to quit as task force spox, but . . .
The chief of the military’s Southern Luzon Command (Solcom), Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr, said he has long wanted to leave his post as spokesperson for the Interagency Task Force to End the Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac), but National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. asked him to stay.
Even then, he told the Inquirer in a phone interview on Thursday that the Senate’s recommendation to remove him as NTF-Elcac spokesperson on Constitutional grounds was baseless.
Senator Franklin Drilon on Wednesday added a recommendation to remove Parlade in the 66-page report on the military’s alleged Red-tagging activities by the Senate committee on national defense and security.
Drilon cited Article 16, Section 5 of the Constitution which states: “No member of the armed forces in the active service shall, at any time, be appointed or designated in any capacity to a civilian position in the government including government-owned or controlled corporations or any of their subsidiaries.”
But Parlade said such prohibition did not apply to an interagency task force, which involves civilians and the uniformed services.
The NTF-Elcac was created under Executive Order 70 to institutionalize the whole-of-nation approach in attaining “inclusive and sustainable peace.” Its chair is President Duterte and Esperon is the vice chair. The other members are the heads of various government agencies, including the chiefs of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police.
“You can’t have a whole-of-nation approach without the military,” Parlade pointed out.
He said there were 50 to 100 other active members of the AFP in the NTF-Elcac as regional, provincial, municipal or city unit heads.
Parlade said that he could have been singled out for being the most visible military man in the task force because he was the spokesperson.
Up to Esperon
Nevertheless, he said he would feel relieved if he were removed as the NTF-Elcac mouthpiece so he could focus on his task as Solcom chief. He added in jest: “Do they think I receive double pay?”
He said he has been asking to be replaced as spokesperson since January last year, but the NTF-Elcac would not let him go as he had a deep knowledge of communist rebel operations and the insurgency problem.
“Secretary Esperon asked me to stay on and renewed my appointment this year as NTF-Elcac spokesperson because he said I have been doing a good job,” Parlade said.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Thursday also said appointing Parlade as spokesperson for the task force did not violate the Constitution.
If the general were removed, the government may as well let go of all other military men in the task force, Lorenzana said at Thursday’s Laging Handa briefing.
“The main effort (of the task force) is being led by the PNP and the AFP. And Lt. Gen. Parlade is part of the AFP and so his expertise is being utilized as spokesman of the NTF-Elcac,” Lorenzana said.
Members of the Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives supported the Senate’s recommendation based on the same Constitutional provision cited by Drilon.
But “the best recommendation would be to abolish the NTF-Elcac,” according to Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas who said the task force had been “putting the lives of human rights advocates and activists in danger.”
“Since its establishment, Duterte’s Red-tagging syndicate, has been using public funds to terrorize communities and spread fake news against progressive groups,” she told reporters. WITH A REPORT FROM NESTOR BURGOS
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