Since 2016, I have been defending the budget of the Department of National Defense (DND) and all its attached agencies. Last year, I stubbornly fought to retain the P16.5-billion anti-insurgency fund of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) for 2021, arguing that it was intended for development programs, activities and projects in areas that had been cleared of the presence of the New People’s Army (NPA), and not for armed anti-insurgency operations.
Early this year, the Senate approved in plenary my Committee’s recommendations on the red-tagging issue – including the immediate relief of Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. as spokesperson of NTF-ELCAC, not only because his civilian position is violative of the Constitution. He has in fact, on many occasions, become a “liability” to the overall efforts of the government, as well as the government’s position on the pending 37 petitions against the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 before the Supreme Court, mainly due to his careless remarks and flawed interpretation of certain provisions of the law.
Unfortunately, the DND has openly ignored the Senate in that regard. Thus, I am not sure if I will still defend their budget this year with the same tenacity as I did the previous years – especially if the NTF-ELCAC spokesperson continues to threaten to affect its mission with uncalled-for statements.
Working together should be a two-way street, if we want to make it work. I have consistently supported the Armed Forces of the Philippines by augmenting their appropriations even more than they have requested, as vice chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and main sponsor of the DND and its attached agencies’ annual budget.
The same is true in my capacity as Vice Chairman of the Committee on Defense in the Commission on Appointments, in ensuring the confirmation of the senior officers of the AFP will not be disturbed or delayed. I have not asked for any favor in return, except for them to be true to their oath, apart from being professional and honest in handling the funds of their respective commands.