Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. made me aware of his resignation letter more than a month ago when he paid me a courtesy visit in my Senate office. I thanked and commended him even as that resignation was still subject to the approval of higher authorities.
There is no question about his passion to do his role in ending the longest-running insurgency in Asia, and I still believe that the NTF-ELCAC is a long overdue solution to the “water lily” tactical maneuvers being employed by the CPP-NPA to maintain their influence over previously cleared barangays.
I too believe that without infrastructure, livelihood and social development interventions by the national government after all successful counter-insurgency operations by our security forces in clearing those barangays of the NPA presence, it can only result in a Sisyphus-like situation with no clear solution in sight.
That said, the Senate’s legal position on the issue is clear – that his appointment as an active military officer in a civilian position is clearly proscribed by the Constitution, and whatever legal discussion or debate on his official designation in a civilian office while still in the active military service has now become moot and academic. I am glad it has ended that way.
Since the time the NTF-ELCAC was created, being the principal sponsor of their annual budget, I have been their most reliable ally in the Senate – until now.
That said, there’s no point discussing, much less arguing with people who refuse to listen to reason and adhere to the rule of law. The Senate as an institution has made our collective and legal position on the issue of the appointment of Parlade as an active military officer in a civilian position – which the Constitution clearly proscribes.
All I can say is: They made their choice, and it will cost them.
Hindi maabuso ng National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) ang bilyun-bilyong pisong pondong inilaan ng gobyerno sa pagpapaunlad sa mga komunidad na nalinis na mula sa impluwensiya ng New People’s Army (NPA).
Ito ang tugon ni Senate Committee on National Defense Chairman Panfilo Lacson sa mga mambabatas na nagnanais na tanggalan ng pondo ang NTF-ELCAC, kasabay ng pagsasabing mga lokal na pamahalaan (LGU) ang mangangasiwa sa paggastos sa mga ito para sa mga proyektong pangkaunlaran.
Nasa P9.699 bilyon na mula sa kabuuang P16.4 bilyon ang nailalabas na pondo para sa pagpapaunlad ng mga barangay na nalinis na sa dating pamamayagpag at impluwensiya ng nabanggit na grupo.
“Being the sponsor of the NTF-ELCAC’s 2021 budget, it is my obligation and responsibility to defend the Department of Budget and Management’s release of funds which will be implemented not by the NTF-ELCAC but by the local government units concerned,” paliwanag ni Lacson na siya ring sponsor ng gastusin ng Department of National Defense (DND) at mga ahensiya nito para sa kasalukuyang taon.
Some P9.699 billion has been released so far for the development of barangays that have been cleared of the influence of the New People’s Army (NPA), but this – or the full P16.4-billion allocation for 2021 – cannot be “abused” by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson said.
Lacson gave this assurance to fellow lawmakers who are asking to defund NTF-ELCAC, even as he stressed the amount would eventually be released to the local government units that will implement the development projects.
“Being the sponsor of the NTF-ELCAC’s 2021 budget, it is my obligation and responsibility to defend the Department of Budget and Management’s release of funds which will be implemented not by the NTF-ELCAC but by the local government units concerned,” said Lacson, who chairs the Senate’s Committee on National Defense and who sponsored the budget of the Department of National Defense (DND) and its attached agencies for 2021.
NTF-ELCAC vice chairperson Sec. Hermogenes Esperon Jr. should just read Article XVI, Sec 5, paragraph 4 of the 1987 Constitution when he decides on the fate of Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. as NTF-ELCAC spokesperson. He may not even need one week to review.
The said provision in the Constitution is clear: “No member of the armed forces in the active service shall, at any time, be appointed or designated in any capacity to a civilian position in the Government, including government-owned or controlled corporations or any of their subsidiaries.”
As such, Sec. Esperon and Malacañang’s legal staff can simply ask themselves the question: is NTF-ELCAC a civilian office or a unit of the AFP?
Meanwhile, Art. XVI, Sec. 3 of the Constitution also decrees that the armed forces shall be insulated from partisan politics. As such, “no member of the military shall engage, directly or indirectly, in any partisan political activity, except to vote.”
The issue goes beyond the attacks issued by Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. on the organizers of community pantries as well as against the members of the Senate. A temporary ‘gag order’ is thus not the appropriate response.
In the first place, as an active member of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Parlade “cannot be appointed or designated in any capacity to a civilian position in the Government,” according to Art. XVI, Sec. 5, Paragraph 4 of no less than the 1987 Constitution.
That said, the AFP/DND should have heeded the call of the Senate to immediately recall him back to the AFP more than a month ago. He should be censured for dabbling in politics instead of just focusing on his inherent mission as commanding general of the Southern Luzon Command – that is, to fight threats such as terrorism and insurgency.
Meanwhile, as far as Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy is concerned, her political statements are her and the NTF-ELCAC’s responsibility to the Filipino people.
To The Manila Times: Please allow us to set the record straight regarding the column of Mauro Gia Samonte last April 24, where he claimed Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson made a “turnabout” by recommending the relief of Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. as spokesperson of the NTF-ELCAC.
No thanks to the “loose lips” of its spokesperson, the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) may find its budget for 2022 in deep trouble, Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson said Saturday.
Lacson said that while he believes the NTF-ELCAC is doing well in terms of developing areas cleared of the New People’s Army, Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr.’s recent political statements threaten to take away those gains.
“The Armed Forces of the Philippines must remain apolitical. Otherwise, the constitutional balance among institutions is skewed and democratic governance is disturbed and even threatened. Lt. Gen. Parlade should just focus on ending insurgency and fighting terrorism. When he retires, he can debate all he wants on political issues,” Lacson said.
“Because of his commentaries, the NTF-ELCAC is dragged into controversies. Nauuna ang bibig niya sa kanyang ginagawa. Yan ang danger, kasi nakakagulo na. Instead of helping, his loose lips threaten to drag the NTF-ELCAC into the mess,” he added, in an interview on DWIZ radio.
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.
I’ll join Senate President Sotto’s call to retain the P16.4-billion allocations to the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).
The fund is not even at the disposal of the security sector since it is part of the Special Purpose Fund under the Assistance to Local Government Units (ALGU) and is intended to hold and develop barangays that are cleared of New People’s Army (NPA) influence.
As such, it will go to development programs such as farm-to-market roads and livelihood, as part of confidence-building to prevent the insurgency problem from returning.
With this, affected barangays will no longer be vulnerable to attempts by the NPA to recruit members especially from indigenous peoples. Pagkakataon ito pati sa mga NPA sa mga lugar na ito na magbagong-buhay.
The insurgency problem is more than 50 years old, easily the oldest in Asia. It is time we take the needed steps to address the insurgency problem.