Senator Panfilo Lacson on Tuesday chided the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) for its “arrogance” in keeping Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. as one of its spokesmen despite the lawmaker’s comments that a military officer should not occupy a civilian position in government.
Lacson also said Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., as vice chairman of the task force, failed on their promise to the senator to remove Parlade as spokesperson of the government’s anti-insurgency agency despite his controversial statements red-tagging groups and personalities.
This developed as the woman who began the community pantry movement in the country to aid those in need during the COVID-19 pandemic revealed Tuesday that she has received death and rape threats.
Ana Patricia Non, who organized the first food bank at Maginhawa St. in Quezon City, also reported being harassed after her number was used in an online food delivery service.
On Facebook, she wrote, “I cried yesterday due to exhaustion. I’m overwhelmed.” Non said she had missed several interviews and meetings and failed to visit the Maginhawa Community Pantry.
“Together with this, I’m thinking about the death and rape threats sent to me this morning. I’m also thinking how to contact Foodpanda because every night someone makes an order using my number,” she added.
In April, Non suspended operations of the food pantry for a day after she was red-tagged by state forces and government officials.
In a Zoom media briefing, Lacson admitted he was dismayed with the botched plan to boot out Parlade from NTF-ELCAC, insisting it was based on the Constitution, which barred him from occupying a civilian position, since he’s still active in the military service.
According to Lacson, Lorenzana and Esperon supposedly told him as early as April 27 that they want to remove Parlade from the NTF-ELCAC just before the latter retires from the military.
Lacson also disclosed Esperon himself sent him a message saying they will relieve Parlade just before he retires.
“My suggestion was to relieve him now and rehire him after he retires, so there’s no constitutional issue,” Lacson said. “So, I don’t see any sense with them insisting to retain him. It’s like there’s no point listening or discussing this issue with people who don’t want to listen to reason anymore.”
An opposition party-list lawmaker also slammed the appointment of more spokespersons for the NTF-ELCAC.
Assistant Minority Leader France Castro said such a move will only result in a “more intensive vilification campaign, terror-tagging and spreading fake news against unions, teachers, and activists that threaten the safety and security of the Filipino people.”
“Having eight spokespersons for a task force that has done nothing but spread lies, vilification and threats against union leaders, community pantry organizers, progressive organizations and lawmakers will only lead to more harassment and threats against the Filipino people demanding for just and lasting peace,” Castro, nominee of ACT-Teachers, said.
The solon also said it is absurd to give eight spokespersons to a task force, not even a constitutional agency, 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.
Lacson also said he would now be less enthusiastic in defending the budget that NTF-ELCAC will propose in 2022.
“It’s coming across as quite arrogant for us, okay? And as I said, it will cost them because it is the collective stand or position of the Senate based on solid constitutional grounds that he is not qualified, being an active member of the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” said Lacson.
“If anyone would object or move to reduce their budget, I will not, you know, have the same enthusiasm or the same interest in defending them,” said the senator.
According to Lacson, he even “walked the extra mile” to help ensure that the NTF-ELCAC’s controversial P19.1-billion budget for 2021 was passed despite strong objections by senators in the minority bloc.
Senators have been repeatedly calling for the removal of at the NTF-ELCAC of Parlade, who has been involves in several controversies, the latest, involving the red tagging of community pantry organizers.
“The people’s demand has been to abolish the terror-tagging, good-for-nothing task force, not increase its spokespersons to spread more lies and threaten the safety and security of the Filipino people. They will all spread the same lies endangering the lives of many Filipinos,” Castro added.
“We continue to demand for the abolishment of the NTF-ELCAC, reallocate the P19 billion to the health, economic and education social services to aid the crisis stricken Filipino people,” Castro stressed.
“Now more than ever, we need more people calling for accountability, justice and peace from the inutile and failed pandemic response of the Duterte administration over the lies of the NTF-ELCAC.”