#PINGterview: Senate Probe on Red-Tagging; ‘FLR’ in 2021 Budget

In an interview with Senate media, Sen. Lacson answered questions on:
* Probing alleged red-tagging, red-baiting
* ‘FLR’ practice in the budget
* ‘Exemptions’ in the mega-task force vs corruption?

QUOTES and NOTES:

* RED-TAGGING:

Senate Probe into Red-Tagging:

This morning I filed Senate Resolution 559. The moment it is read on the floor and referred to my committee, the defense committee, I will conduct a public hearing in this regard. We will summon the AFP leadership, even the DND, particularly si Lt Gen Parlade. We will also invite Gabriela and other militant groups para maliwanagan natin saan nag-uugat ang misunderstanding and conflict pagdating sa red tagging and red baiting, etc.”

No (celebrities will be invited). Ang groups lang but anybody can attend, maski hindi invited. Ayaw natin ma-distract. You can just imagine if we invite celebrities and thereโ€™s a good number of them. Baka ma-distract, mawala ang focus natin sa issue at hand. Baka focus natin mapunta sa mga celebrities.”

Ang kay Gen. Parlade, when he was confirmed prior to his confirmation, tinanong siya tungkol diyan (misunderstanding of the Anti-Terrorism Law). And he rectified himself. I myself asked the questions because at the time there seemed to be some misunderstanding or confusion regarding the issue of designation and proscription. He corrected himself.”

“Maraming briefings (on the Anti-Terrorism Law), may sa PNP, AFP, Army. I think itโ€™s only a matter of reading the law. Hindi ganoon kahirap intindihin siguro. Si Lt Gen Parlade I remember he reached out the first time after his confirmation, sinabi niya na mali nga ang interpretation niya and he was trying to rectify. Ewan ko bakit eto na naman tayo.”

Nagpasabi siya, may kaunting sorry. Yung (sa issue) ngayon. Nag-text ang officer na kakilala ko, pinapaabot ni Lt Gen Parlade, ‘Sorry again.'”

NTF-ELCAC’s 2021 Budget Affected?

Sa ELCAC na pondo, something like P19B, hindi ito mapupunta sa military. Ang pondong ito is for development programs consisting of farm-to-market roads, livelihood. Ito confidence building. Pag nagkaroon ng counter-insurgency operations sa countryside, ang nangyayari after the military has left, nagbabalik parang water lily, babalik uli ang problema ng insurgency. Mas maganda ang hold and develop phase, di lang natatapos sa military operations. Kailangan humihingi ng pondo ang security sector para ma-hold and develop ang na-clear na barangays. Doon gagamitin ang P19B para ma-develop ang areas para di na maging vulnerable sa atrocities at pag-recruit ng NPAs ng mga members especially from indigenous peoples.”

HIndi ganoon kalaki at maraming iko-cover. We will be able to justify and argue ang need, kinwestyon na last year for this year. And again questions are being raised. And the President, this is again in pursuance of the Presidentโ€™s directive to the military to finish the insurgency problem. Look. Half a century old na ang insurgency problem natin, oldest in Asia, tayo lang hindi nakakatawid na ma-clear ang country ng insurgency problem.”

***

* FLR in 2021 BUDGET:

We noticed and I will raise an issue out of this, ang ginawa kasi ng DBM, napaka-deliberate na basta congressional initiative, they tag those amendments for FLR, For Later Release. Ang origin ng FLR, it used to be an impoundment. Since hindi pinapayagan ang impoundment, napalitan yan dati, before FLR, iba ang nomenclature. Now they are using FLR kasi hindi pwede ang conditional veto pagdating sa budget. So they are coming up with nomenclatures to justify para hindi i-release ang budget. And this is my opinion, Iโ€™d like to share with my colleagues at the proper time. Parang nadi-diminish if not rendered irrelevant ang power of the purse or the authority of Congress to participate in the budget process.”

“Safely we can estimate na hundreds of billions.”

Kung lahat na congressional initiatives regardless kung individual insertions or institutional amendments, tatanggalin ng DBM, para ano pa itong ginagawa namin ngayon? Bakit pa kami nagre-review ng NEP kung at the end of the day, when the President already approved the GAA, hindi rin ire-release lahat ng CI. So rendered inutile ang Congress, both houses for that matter, doon sa budget process.”

Of course pandemic ngayon, hindi normal ang condition natin, pero dapat tinanong muna nila muna ang agencies, mag-submit kayo ng listahan ng projects na mahirapan kayo implement para ito FLR natin para ma-realign for the needs of the pandemic. Ang nangyari parang napaka-arbitrary na basta nakitang CI meaning introduced by lawmakers, automatic FLR.”

I hope this will not be repeated in 2021. Dahil alam natin ang proseso, dadaan at dadaan yan, magkakaroon ng amendments. The NEP is not a perfect document. That is why sa budget process dumadaan ito sa Congress na sinasabing may power of the purse. E bakit ma-render useless lahat na effort namin? Yan ang question.”

“For one, I can speak for an agency assigned to me, DICT. For this year during the budget deliberations last year, pinadagdagan ko ang ni-request nila for the development of their national broadband program, nagpadagdag ako ng P11B. Ang nangyari, hindi ni-release. For the 2021 NEP, binigyan lang sila ng measly amount of P100M from their need na P18B. And thatโ€™s in pursuance of the executive agenda.”

***

* COMMISSION ON APPOINTMENTS’ ‘FAILURE’ OVER AMB. MAURO, LT. GEN. PARLADE:

“Hindi naman. Kasi ang CA hearings, public hearing yan. Anybody can raise issues against any of the appointees or nominees. In the cases of Lt Gen Parlade and Ambassador Mauro, wala namang nag-raise ng issue nang ngayong lumalabas na questions regarding their sabihin nating competence.”

“As a matter of fact, I was informed by our staff, it is our office that submitted the copy of the video footage na pinapaimbestigahan ngayon ng DFA. Unang lumabas ito sa Brazil. Members of my staff were able to secure advance copies of the video footage. Pinadala sa DFA and that triggered the recall order issued to the ambassador.”

“Hindi lumabas previous involvement sa maltreatment; tiyak lalabas yan sa confirmation. But walang naglabas nito so thereโ€™s no way for the CA Committee on Foreign Affairs which I chair, para malaman ang ganoong attitude. Of course an investigation is ongoing. Letโ€™s find out ano ang kanyang explanation.”

Ang assumption pag nakapasok ka sa Foreign Service or AFP, pumas aka sa neuro-psych examination kasi disqualification yan pag bagsak ka sa NP screening. So ang assumption is walang psychological problem ang nominee. Ilang beses na siya na-promote sa DFA. And si Lt Gen Parlade from 2Lt. kadete pa lang bago makapasok PMA may NP test tapos regular ina-undertake ng men in uniform ang neuropsych exam.”

Walang pagkukulang (ang CA) kasi nga public hearing yan. Kung may naglabas ng issue noon, most probebaly hindi siya nakalusot.”

***

* MEGA TASK FORCE vs CORRUPTION:

“Most welcome. Maganda ang move. Ang problema lang, at the outset, mag-create ng mega task force sa to address all corruption, and in the same announcement, meron agad ‘exceptions’. Parang ang message doon huwag isama kasi hindi kasali. Doon pa lang, parang it has already started on the wrong foot.”

“Dapat kung mega task force by the name itself, dapat i-cover lahat including lawmakers, and again thatโ€™s most welcome kasi nobody is above the law, pero bakit exempted dito parang effectively without saying it parang sinasabing huwag nyo isama si Sec Duque or Villar. I am not trying to say ang dalawa may kinalaman sa corruption, far from that. Pero para magkaroon kaagad at the outset meron agad na hindi dapat galawin, paano mag-succeed ang effort to curb corruption? Di ba dapat lahat isama?”

But with the track record of SOJ Guevarra being virtual head of the mega task force, ako mataas naman ang kumpyansa ko. Because ang nangyari sa PhilHealth we had some regular engagements na talagang hinihingi lahat na records ng investigation na ginawa ng Senate. And ang kanyang inilabas na report by and large nag-conform and more kasi meron silang sariling effort.”

Dapat suportahan natin at saka dapat July 2016 sana lumabas ang utos na ganito. So makita natin more or less ang concrete results. Kasi ngayon sabihin na natin the admin does not have the luxury of time to see the logical conclusion of all these efforts. And remember this is just the investigation phase. Punta pa ito sa prosecution and after DOJ, ire-refer pa ito sa Ombudsman. And Ombudsman sa mandate nila, meron pa silang fact-finding at minsan ang field investigation nila, takes 1-2 years. E wala na, tapos na ang 2022. I hope magkaroon sila ng sufficient and concrete evidence, strong and damning evidence to recommend for trial some personalities, both in the executive and legislative branches.”

*****