Senators ‘stupid’ for wanting to defund NTF-ELCAC — Parlade

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 22)— Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade, spokesperson of the government’s anti-communist task force, on Thursday hit back at senators pushing to defund the group, saying it was “stupid” on the part of the lawmakers and “unfair” for the government’s program.

In an interview with CNN Philippines’ Balitaan, Parlade pointed out that the senators themselves were the ones who signed and approved the budget of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict.

“I’ll tell you, sila ang stupid kung ito ay binabawi nila,” Parlade argued. “Pinirmahan nila ‘yung batas na ‘yan para maging serbisyo, ipagpatuloy ang programa ng gobyerno. Ngayon sasabihin nila na ide-defund nila ‘yung NTF-ELCAC?”

“I think that’s unfair, ‘yung mga sinasabi ng mga senador,” he added.

[Translation: I’ll tell you, they are the ones who are stupid if they’ll take this (funds) back. They signed that law to serve, to continue the programs of the government. Now they want to defund the NTF-ELCAC?...I think that’s unfair, what the senators are saying.]

Parlade, also the chief of the military’s Southern Luzon Command, said he doesn't earn a single centavo as the spokesperson of the NTF-ELCAC, which he called his “second job.”

A number of senators proposed to review the budget of — and even defund — the NTF-ELCAC for next year amid issues hounding its alleged “profiling” and “red-tagging” activities against community pantry organizers.

The NTF-ELCAC has a ₱19-billion budget for 2021, with around ₱16-billion to be spent as incentives for barangays that were cleared of insurgency threats.

Senator Richard Gordon, in an interview with CNN Philippines’ The Source earlier in the day, described the alleged red-tagging of the task force as “imbecilic, stupid, and shameful."

But Parlade said it was “not fair” to label their activities as such.

“Senator Gordon, I’m sorry, but it’s not fair to say that what we’re doing is stupid," Parlade said.“Hindi namin nilalalahat (We’re not doing this to all pantries). Because there are reports coming from the ground, from the people, from the netizens.”

Parlade clarifies 'Same with Satan' comment

Meanwhile, Parlade also tried to clarify a controversial comment he made during a recent television interview, where he compared Ana Patricia Non's single-handed organizing of the first community pantry to Satan's act of deception to Eve, and that it's “where it all started.”

Parlade said his remarks may have been misinterpreted by the media.

“I did not mean that Ana is Satan. I never said that,” Parlade said. “In fact, I said, I appreciate what Ana is doing.”

The community pantry in Maginhawa, Quezon City halted its operations for a day after Non revealed that some police officers started asking regarding her affiliation after days of overseeing the aid project's operations. The development sparked an outrage in social media in the past days.

Apart from the Maginhawa pantry, similar initiatives have also popped up in other areas in Metro Manila and elsewhere around the country, in a bid to help citizens severely affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

Tarnishing military’s image

For his part, Senator Kiko Pangilinan said Parlade’s comments will only place the Armed Forces of the Philippines in a bad light.

“What is the message to junior officers that a senior military official can, in a very unprofessional and undisciplined way, make these remarks and can get away with it? This tarnishes the image of the Armed Forces of the Philippines as a professional and disciplined organization,” he told CNN Philippines’ News Night.

He added that AFP chief Gen. Cirilito Sobejano should discipline Parlade.

“What is happening here is because he is not being disciplined and he gets away with it, so he keeps repeating it,” said Pangilinan. “We urge the AFP to rein in and protect the chain of command.”