Senators call for probe on anti-communist task force’s performance, budget use

Gen. Antonio G. Parlade, Jr. — PHILSTAR

Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza, Reporter

FIVE senators have jointly filed a resolution calling for an inquiry on the performance of the government’s anti-communist task force to determine whether it has been doing its job and using its budget efficiently.

The resolution filed Monday cites the various occasions that Gen. Antonio G. Parlade, Jr., spokesperson of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), and the task force itself “came under fire for baselessly red-tagging individuals and entities.”

The senators said the probe will help determine if the task force’s allocation this year should be realigned to address more pressing needs amid the continuing coronavirus crisis.

“There is a need to review the performance of the NTF-ELCAC in fulfilling its mandate vis-a-vis the need for judicious use of scarce government resources, and whether its P19.1-billion appropriation for 2021 should be used instead to help address the needs of our citizens during this pandemic,” they said in the resolution.

The signatories are Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph G. Recto, and Senators Nancy S. Binay, Grace Poe-Llamanzares, Sherwin T. Gatchalian, and Joel J. Villanueva.

Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III on Sunday night asked lawmakers to assess the strength of the NTF-ELCAC, not its officials, before deciding to defund the institution.

“If the program is not working then we can assess that in the budget hearings,” he said in a Viber message to reporters.

Mr. Sotto also clarified that legislators are not authorized to defund the task force under the 2021 General Appropriations Act (GAA). “Let us set the records straight, how do we propose to defund a certain program of gov’t legitimately funded in the current law, the GAA? You cannot,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Presidential Palace welcomed the gag order imposed against Mr. Parlade and Undersecretary Lorraine Marie T. Badoy of the NTF-ELCAC over their unabashed red-tagging of community pantry organizers.

“We are asking all our officials to be careful with what they’re saying, they need to widen their perspectives,” he told a televised news briefing.

The two officials were barred on Sunday from making further statements on community pantries after linking the give-and-take hubs that have sprouted across the country to communist insurgency.

In a separate statement, Senator Panfilo M. Lacson maintained his position to recall Mr. Parlade back to the military.

Citing the 1987 Constitution, the senior legislator said Mr. Parlade, as an active member of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, “cannot be appointed or designated in any capacity to a civilian position in the government.”

“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,” he said.