Lacson hits Parlade’s retention, won’t support NTF-Elcac’s budget
The government’s anti-insurgency task force may have cut off its nose to spite its face by designating six extra mouthpieces and retaining two spokespersons, including Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr., whom lawmakers had wanted to be sacked for Red-tagging organizers of community pantries, Sen. Panfilo Lacson said on Tuesday.
Lacson, who called himself the “strongest ally” in the Senate of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac), said in an online interview with reporters that he would no longer “vigorously” defend its budget for 2022 like he did for its P19.1-billion budget this year.
“There’s an air of arrogance [to their action]. Not only did they not heed the Senate’s call to relieve Parlade, they even added spokespersons,” he said.
“It will cost them. They will lose the cooperation of the Senate,” he added, noting that the submission of the 2022 budget was approaching.
Lacson said he did not understand why Hermogenes Esperon Jr., national security adviser and vice chair of NTF-Elcac, and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana decided to keep Parlade even after they privately reassured him that he was on the way out.
“Secretary Lorenzana promised me as early as April 27 that he and Esperon [had] agreed to ease out Parlade. Then, day before yesterday, Secretary Esperon himself sent me a message saying they will relieve Parlade before he retires,” he told reporters.
With Parlade staying on, Lacson said the NTF-Elcac had lost his support, recalling how he defended its 2021 budget despite some colleagues’ call to defund the agency because of its spokespersons’ controversial remarks.
Not same enthusiasm
“I will no longer be so vigorous in defending their budget. If somebody objects or asks to reduce their budget, I will not have the same enthusiasm in defending their budget,” he said.
The Senate in March adopted a recommendation calling for the firing of Parlade as his appointment in the NTF-Elcac was in violation of the Constitution banning the appointment of any active military personnel to any government civilian position.
In late April, 15 senators filed a bipartisan resolution reprimanding Parlade for calling them “stupid” in response to the call to defund the task force.
Parlade, as chief of the Armed Forces’ Southern Luzon Command, is one of the military’s key officers in the offensive against the communist rebellion. He has achieved notoriety for branding several persons, from celebrities and lawmakers to student activists, as sympathizers or supporters of the communist movement.
On Monday, Esperon tapped six other officials to join Parlade and Communications Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy as spokespersons for NTF-Elcac.
More Red-tagging seen
A militant lawmaker who had also called for the defunding of the task force said the appointment of additional spokespersons would only lead to more vilification campaigns and terror-tagging that threaten the safety and security of Filipinos.
“Giving eight spokespersons to a task force, not even a constitutional agency, is absurd especially during a pandemic when the government should focus and prioritize its resources and time in strengthening the healthcare system and information dissemination on the continuing spread of the virus and its variants,” ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro said in a statement.
She said the public demanded to abolish the NTF-Elcac and not appoint more talking heads.
“They will all spread the same lies endangering the lives of many Filipinos,” Castro added.
—WITH A REPORT FROM NESTOR CORRALES INQ
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