Army spokesman axed for calling for scrapping of ceasefire with MILF
MANILA, Philippines—For daring to publicly call for the scrapping of the ceasefire agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the spokesperson of the Philippine Army was sacked.
Colonel Antonio Parlade Jr. was relieved of his post Friday night and replaced by his deputy, Major Harold Cabunoc, who took over in an acting capacity, both officials confirmed.
Contacted by the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Saturday, the relieved officer was unbowed.
“Yes, it’s confirmed. (I) just did my job, said what I think was right,” Parlade said in a statement sent by text message.
He said he harbored “no regrets” for not toeing the government line that the peace process be honored and no all-out war was to be waged against the MILF renegades, who killed 19 Army men in an encounter in Al Barka town on Tuesday.
Parlade, a member of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class of 1987, maintained that his call for the resumption of hostilities with the rebels in Basilan was shared by his peers and colleagues in the Army.
“I’m happy knowing our soldiers’ voice and sentiments were heard,” Parlade said. “We are not politicians, we are soldiers. Professional soldiers.”
Cabunoc acknowledged that some Army members might share Parlade’s views but stressed this was not true for the entire organization.
“Of course the prevailing sentiment (in the Army) is anger and sadness… There are officers who agree with him, and there are officers who don’t. If you asked one platoon, they would give different answers,” he said.
“But it’s not the position of the whole Army,” said Cabunoc, a member of the PMA Class of 1994.
He said he believed Parlade was to be temporarily assigned to the Army headquarters support unit under Army commanding general Lieutenant General Arturo Ortiz.
Asked to confirm reports that it was President Benigno Aquino who ordered Parlade’s relief during the command conference at Camp Aguinaldo on Friday, Cabunoc said he did not know.
Aquino on Friday night called for calm and sobriety amid persistent calls for an all-out war against the MILF over atrocities it committed against the soldiers. He said the government would not be cowed into making hasty decisions based on emotion alone.
That position contrasted with Parlade’s.
In a radio interview last week, the spokesperson said: “If you asked my opinion, it’s clear that we should pursue the MILF rebels and temporarily suspend the cessation of hostilities, specifically in Basilan.”
He said he believed the only solution would be to suspend the ceasefire in Basilan in order to enable the government forces to more fully establish law and order in the violence-racked province.
Parlade, a member of the Army’s elite Special Forces, saw action against various secessionist groups in the Army’s 6th Infantry Division in Mindanao for many years. “He is well regarded by his peers,” Cabunoc said of the former spokesperson.
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