Esperon confirms gag order on Parlade, Badoy

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 25) — Two spokespersons of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict have been ordered against issuing statements on community pantries.

In a text message, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon confirmed he has issued a gag order on NTF-ELCAC spokespersons LtGen Antonio Parlade and Communications Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy.

"Yes, I did if only to emphasize that NTF-ELCAC or Gen. Parlade or Usec. Badoy are not against bayanihan or community pantries... Lest it be misunderstood, they will desist from making statements on community pantries. And NTF- ELCAC will support, observe and assist CPs, as does the whole of government," said Esperon.

In a forum last week, Esperon said they would not discourage organizers of community pantries and other activities that foster the bayanihan spirit amid the pandemic and denied security agencies were profiling people involved in the popular food-sharing initiative, adding that they were only being observed.

When asked for comment on the gag order, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said he had none.

Parlade drew flak after admitting that background checks were being conducted on organizers of community pantries, including leftist groups which he said may have been "engaging in propaganda" through such initiatives.

Several senators are pushing to defund NTF-ELCAC next year following its alleged red-tagging of community pantry organizers, with Senator Richard Gordon saying the task force should instead focus on helping the public.

"Bakit sila nagfo-focus dito sa mga taong tumutulong sa kapwa at nagpapakita ng bayanihan sa ating bayan? I think it's imbecilic, it's stupid and shameful," he said in an interview with CNN Philippines on Thursday.

[Translation: Why are they focusing on people who are simply helping others and showing the country's 'bayanihan' spirit?]

Parlade fired back, saying it was "stupid" on the part of the lawmakers to defund the NTF-ELCAC and "unfair" for the government's program.

As of publishing, neither Parlade nor Badoy has issued a statement concerning the gag order.