It is dangerous to confuse speaking the loudest with speaking the ‘unequivocal’ truth.
The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) as conceptualized was an excellent weapon aimed at ending the longest running insurgency in the world.
Being the sponsor of its budget for a good number of years in my capacity as Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, I had consistently advocated and defended its budget to ensure it had sufficient funding to fulfill its mandate. This, in spite of pressure from some of my peers in plenary and expectedly from the militant groups outside the halls of Congress – until persistent reports came out from some LGUs that criticized its implementation due to fund misuse and inequitable budget dispersal which favored jurisdictions of the administration’s political allies rather than its true purpose and objective of providing development programs, projects and activities to insurgency-cleared communities. A case in point is Davao City where former Mayor and now Vice President Sara Duterte declined to receive billions of pesos in NTF-ELCAC appropriations since not a single barangay in the city would be needing the same.
When I called out the concerned NTF-ELCAC officials about such misuse while performing my legislative duty, then Undersecretary Badoy and Jeffrey Celiz aka Ka Eric openly used their media platforms to discredit me – albeit unsuccessfully – by making attacks on my person.
Ex-Usec Badoy need not remind me of the heinous and barbaric crimes perpetrated by the New People’s Army over the past five decades, as I myself, for over 30 years, stood at the forefront of the government’s fight against the atrocities of this organization. Never will I forget how I almost suffered the same fate of thousands of men in uniform and civilians when the NPA staged a deadly ambush against me and my team back when I served as the PC provincial commander of Isabela from 1987 to 1988. That ambush claimed the life of one junior officer, PC 2Lt Rosauro Toda, who literally breathed his last while in my arms.
Having said all that, these bullying tactics of Lorraine Badoy and Jeffrey Celiz, as in the case of Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong, will likely not stop if not checked now. Not only that – such antics will threaten to undo the credible gains made against the insurgency. After Mayor Magalong, who’s next?
While I share with them the same advocacy and passion in ending the insurgency problem, I enjoin them to focus on the enemy without harassing those of us who put our lives on the line while serving in the AFP and PNP.