The military chief called the attention of red-tagging Lieutenant General Antonio Parlade Jr about his controversial remarks on community pantries, but fell short of punishing him.
“I called the attention of Parlade and invited him," General Cirilito Sobejana told a press conference on Thursday, April 21. "I reiterated to him my guidance… that is to exercise due diligence."
But Sobejana did not want to comment further. “I don’t want to comment directly on what he has said,” Sobejana said about Parlade, spokesman of the task force against communist rebels and commander of the military's Southern Luzon Command. They're classmates at the Philippine Military Academy (Hinirang Class of 1987).
The AFP chief said the military supports these community pantries and that he has in fact ordered the civil-military operations service to provide assistance to them.
Parlade has come under fire anew after he likened the initial organizer of community pantries to Satan. Started by activist Ana Patricia Non on April 14, the pantries have sprouted nationwide as a community effort to fill in the gaps in pandemic relief.
Senators expressed dismay over Parlade's statement and said they would move to defund the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC). “Oh my! We should move to defund NTF-ELCAC in the next budget. Sayang lang pera ng taong bayan (The people’s money is going to waste),” said Senator Joel Villanueva, who used a face palm emoji in his tweet about Parlade's statement.
For fear of their lives, Non briefly suspended their operations after the Quezon City Police District and the NTF-ELCAC red-tagged them on social media.
Various rights and progressive groups have denounced allegations that the pantries are vehicles for communist propaganda.
Meanwhile, PNP spokesperson Brigadier General Ronaldo Olay said PNP chief Police General Debold Sinas had ordered the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) and the police regional offices to probe these red-tagging activities in their respective units.