Parlade exits anti-Red task force; critics to press raps
President Duterte has accepted the resignation of Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr., the outgoing chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Southern Luzon Command (Solcom), as spokesperson of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac).
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque announced the resignation during a press briefing on Thursday in Iloilo City. “That’s what I was able to confirm from [Defense] Secretary [Delfin] Lorenzana,” he said.
Parlade is to retire from military service on July 26. His controversial two-year stint as NTF-Elcac spokesperson saw escalated violence against activists and rights advocates whom he had tagged without proof as communists working to overthrow the government.
Rights groups welcomed the news of his resignation and warned that he would be held accountable for his past actions.
In his resignation letter addressed to the President, who chairs the NTF-Elcac, Parlade said he wished to “ease the pressure” on his “principals” who were being questioned by lawmakers for his appointment as its spokesperson.
Many of his critics, including Sen. Panfilo Lacson, had repeatedly argued that a military man’s appointment to a civilian task force was illegal.
7 other mouthpieces
National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., vice chair of the NTF-Elcac and a staunch defender of Parlade said the task force had “a new spokesperson system.”
The task force has seven other spokespersons.
Esperon said Parlade “can continue speaking out against the communist terrorists as he covers a huge area of operations as commander of the Southern Luzon Command-Regions 4A (Calabarzon), 5 (Bicol), as well as Mimaropa minus Palawan.”
In a statement on Thursday, Parlade said he submitted his resignation letter “almost a month ago.” He said that although his designation as NTF- Elcac spokesperson had legal basis, contrary to the lawmakers’ claim, he would no longer “belabor” the point.
“I am happy that there are now six more civilian NTF spokespersons who shall carry on the fight passionately and with conviction,” he said, excluding Communications Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy who had been his cospokesperson prior to the appointment of the others.
They are: Department of the Interior and Local Government spokesperson Jonathan Malaya; presidential human rights secretariat head Severo Catura; presidential task force on media security executive director Jose Joel Egco; Metropolitan Manila Development Authority spokesperson Celine Pialago; and lawyer Marlon Bosantog and Gaye Florendo, both of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples.
“I want to assure our critics and naysayers that I am not running away from this fight. As a citizen of this country, it behooves me to continue with my patriotic duty to defend our country and end the 52 years onslaught of the CPP-NPA (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army) terrorists, whatever legal way I can,” he said, adding:
“Retirement does not mean the end of my advocacy. In fact, this is a new beginning, sans the prohibitions imposed on public servants. You will be hearing more of citizen Antonio Parlade Jr.”
On Thursday, AFP spokesperson Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said Maj. Gen. Bartolome Vicente Bacarro, the 2nd Infantry Division commander, would replace Parlade as Solcom chief.
But some lawmakers are questioning Bacarro’s impending promotion in connection with the hazing death of Cadet Darwin Dormitorio in 2019.
Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay warned that despite his resignation, Parlade “will continue to face the clamor for justice and for him to be made accountable for the crimes he has committed.”
Parlade is facing numerous complaints for graft and abuse of office filed by rights groups Karapatan, Ibon Foundation and National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, and lawmakers Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate and Kabataan Rep. Sarah Elago at the Office of the Ombudsman.
“We will still see you in court, Mr. Parlade,” Palabay said.
International rights watchdog Human Rights Watch (HRW), which was among the first to call on Parlade to quit, said his resignation was “not sufficient in terms of holding him accountable.”
“He resigned not because he felt the need to be accountable—he resigned because, very likely, he has damaged the credibility of the military, which can only take so much controversy,” said HRW senior researcher Carlos Conde.
“But, in the final analysis, Parlade was just an attack dog unleashed by the state to carry out a wrong-headed counterinsurgency policy that does not make distinction between armed combatants and activists,” Conde said.
Abuse of position
Lawmakers also weighed in on the matter.
Said Bayan Muna Rep. Ferdinand Gaite in a statement: “As spokesperson of NTF-Elcac, Parlade used and abused his position to attack government critics, spread fake news and Red-tag activists and organizations, he should be held accountable for this.”
Gaite is a member of the House Makabayan bloc that has been accused by Parlade as a front of the CPP-NPA.
In a text message, Deputy Speaker Rufus Rodriguez said Parlade had “taken his position to the extreme.”
“Yes, it was his duty to strengthen the government’s anti-insurgency campaign. But by Red-baiting persons including members of Congress, he just went too far,” Rodriguez said. “Allegations should always be evidence-based, which requirement he conveniently set aside.”
—Reports from Jeannette I. Andrade, Krixia Subingsubing, Jerome Aning, Nestor Corrales and Melvin Gascon INQ
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