Lacson wants probe of NTF-Elcac use of P19-billion budget
MANILA, Philippines — The Senate could just use its oversight function to look into the use of P19.2-billion budget of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac), instead of defunding it altogether just because of the political gaffes of its officials, Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson said on Saturday.
But Lacson said Congress could defund the NTF-Elcac next year if the Department of National Defense (DND) continues to ignore the Senate’s recommendation to remove Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. as spokesperson.
The senator, who has been trying to parry other senators’ calls for a realignment of the NTF-Elcac budget, said the task force had been dragged into numerous controversies and now faced scuttling because of Parlade’s “loose lips.”
“He keeps on making commentaries on things he does not understand,” Lacson said, reminding Parlade to refrain from “meddling” in political issues and just focus on ending the insurgency and fighting terrorism.
‘Don’t meddle in politics’
“The best way for him to do that is to resign as spokesperson, and just focus on fighting insurgency and terrorism. Meddling in political affairs is not part of his mandate,” Lacson added.
“That [defunding] is an option for the Senate if they will not listen to us because the situation seems not fair,” he said.
“The senators have a consensus to send a message to the DND that they cannot just keep on taking. They should also know how to give back on a very valid issue,” he said.
Lacson said senators were dismayed that the DND had not acted on the recommendation in Senate Committee Report No. 186, prepared by Lacson’s committee on national defense and security, which called for the removal of Parlade.
While the Senate awaits DND action on its recommendations, Lacson suggested that the Senate committee on finance look into how the task force has been spending its budget because the first quarter of the year has already passed.
“There is a valid reason for us to know how it was spent, or how much has been spent after one quarter, because they have the duty to report to the Senate,” he said.
At the same time, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said he would file a resolution seeking to censure Parlade as spokesperson for saying senators’ proposal to realign the task force’s budget was “stupid.”
“This is my first time to hear an officer of the Armed Forces call senators stupid. That is very disrespectful and uncalled for,” he said in radio interview.
“We are not stupid for calling for a realignment of their fund. We are not stupid for proposing to defund NTF-Elcac because it is within the power of Congress to allocate funds,” he said.
“Such a display of arrogance beneath contempt should be censured,” Drilon added.
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