Parlade would be 'eased out' of NTF-ELCAC, Lacson told

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 11) — Senator Panfilo "Ping" Lacson said he received word from officials of the government's anti-communist task force that its controversial spokesperson Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade would eventually be relieved from the post.

In an interview with Senate reporters on Tuesday, Lacson recalled an April 27 message from Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, promising him that Parlade would be "eased out" of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

"Nangako naman si Secretary Lorenzana sa akin as early as April 27 na nag-agree na sila ni [National Security Adviser Hermogenes] Esperon na i-i-ease out nila si Parlade," Lacson said.

[Translation: Secretary Lorenzana promised me as early as April 27 that he and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon agreed to ease out Parlade.]

CNN Philippines has requested comment from Lorenzana.

Meanwhile, Lacson said he talked to Esperon a few days ago, and got a similar response. Esperon, the vice chairman of the NTF-ELCAC, said that while the task force believes Parlade's appointment was constitutional, it would heed calls to replace the spokesperson "at most before he retires" on July 26.

"Ang suggestion ko is relieve him now and rehire him after he retires. Para walang constitutional issue," Lacson said.

[Translation: My suggestion is relieve him now and rehire him after he retires. So there will be no constitutional issue.]

Article 16, Section 5 of the Constitution states, "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."

Parlade is chief of the military's Southern Luzon Command. He has faced criticisms for red-tagging or arbitrarily linking groups and individuals to the Communist Party of the Philippines, which has been designated by the executive department as a terrorist organization pending court proscription.

In a media briefing on Monday, the NTF-ELCAC announced that Parlade would continue to speak for the task force on security issues. He and Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy are now joined by six new spokespersons.

Lacson does not see it as a step closer to Parlade's removal, but as a seeming display of "air of arrogance."

"Hindi na nga sinunod yung sense of the Senate or yung call ng Senate to relieve e nagdagdag ka pa (You did not heed Senate's call to relieve Parlade and even added more spokespersons)," Lacson said, adding that reducing Parlade's tasks does not change the fact that his appointment violates the Constitution.

Esperon on Monday confirmed discussions with senators and concerned agencies about Parlade's government post. He maintained that Parlade can stay as NTF-ELCAC spokesperson because the post is not considered as a civilian position based on a 1989 executive order by former President Corazon Aquino. The EO defines a civilian post as a plantilla or Career Executive Service position, or one whose functions are "are obviously civilian in nature."

Lacson said a petition may be filed before the Supreme Court to resolve the constitutionality issue, but it might be a "waste of time" considering that it would be moot and academic once Parlade retires in two months.

In the Senate, the NTF-ELCAC just lost one strong supporter. Lacson, a former Philippine National Police chief, said he had been vigorously defending the task force's budget because he believes in the need to end the communist insurgency.

Lacson said he would not have "the same enthusiasm."

"Just to send a strong message na hindi pwedeng kayo na lang nang kayo ang masusunod (that you can't always prevail)," Lacson said.