Gag order aims to stress that Parlade, Badoy not against ‘bayanihan’ – Esperon
MANILA, Philippines — The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac) is not against the spirit of ‘bayanihan,’ which was the reason that National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. gave for issuing a gag order on the agency’s spokespersons — Presidential Communications Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy and Army Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr.
“Yes, I did it to emphasize that [the] NTF-Elcac or Gen. Parlade or Usec. Badoy are not against bayanihan or community pantries,” Esperon said in a message to reporters on Sunday.
“Lest it be misunderstood, they will desist [from] making statements on community pantries. And NTF-ELCAC will support, observe and assist CPs, as does the whole of [government],” he added.
Badoy and Parlade have lately been ridiculed on social media for “red-tagging” Ana Patricia Non, the 26-year-old woman who started the Maginhawa Community Pantry, and other organizers who followed her example.
They accused Badoy and other organizers of being members of groups that set up as legal fronts of the communist movement and that their community pantries were being used for propaganda.
Their remarks have gained the ire of pantry supporters and even government officials, including senators who then proposed defunding the NTF-ELCAC.
Esperon stressed, however, that both Parlade and Badoy were not against the concept of community pantries.
He noted that Parlade, who is also the commander of the Southern Luzon Command of the Armed Forces, had been “bringing basic services to disadvantaged or calamity-stricken barangays and residents therefore with no personal agenda but to help.”
Such comments have drawn the ire of officials, including Senators who sought to defund NTF-ELCAC.
In reaction, Parlade said senators shouldn’t drag the whole NTF-ELCAC into the discussion if they had a problem with him.
Earlier, Vice President Leni Robredo — seen as the figurehead of the opposition — defended community pantry organizers from red-tagging and criticisms, saying that the initiative was a good one and should be supported.
According to Robredo, some do not understand that people — if they have enough income and have food to put on the table — will not line up for long hours just to get small amounts of food enough just get them through the day.
The community pantries sprouted all over the country at a time when Metro Manila and nearby provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal had been placed under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) and later modified ECQ (MECQ) due to a surge in COVID-19 cases.
The series of lockdowns in various places nationwide since March last year had caused a slump in the income of many workers, particularly those who could not work from home. The small aid being given by the government gave birth to the community pantry — which runs on the principle “take what you need, give what you can.”
However, another concern that cropped up, besides the alleged communist links brought up by the NTF-ELCAC, was that safety precautions against COVID-19 might not be followed strictly at community pantries.