Lacson’s support for NTF-ELCAC wanes as Parlade stays on as spokesman

Mara Cepeda

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Lacson’s support for NTF-ELCAC wanes as Parlade stays on as spokesman

LACSON. Senator Panfilo Lacson speaks during a Senate committee of the whole hearing on April 27, 2021.

File photo by Albert Calvelo/Senate PRIB

Senator Ping Lacson is turned off after the supposed plan to 'ease out' Lieutenant General Antonio Parlade Jr from the NTF-ELCAC did not push through

The government’s anti-insurgency task force could lose a key congressional ally in Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, who said it was “arrogant” for the body to retain Lieutenant General Antonio Parlade Jr as spokesperson despite senators’ repeated calls for him to be sacked. 

In a virtual press briefing on Tuesday, May 11, Lacson said he will now be less enthusiastic in defending the funds that the National Task Force to End Local Communist Insurgency (NTF-ELCAC) will be proposing in 2022 once senators scrutinize the proposed national budget for next year. 

“It’s coming across as quite arrogant for us, okay? And as I said, it will cost them because it is the collective stand or position of the Senate based on solid constitutional grounds that he is not qualified, being an active member of the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” said Lacson in a mix of English and Filipino.

“If anyone would object or move to reduce their budget, I will not, you know, have the same enthusiasm or the same interest in defending them,” said the senator. 

Lacson, a retired police general who once headed the Philippine National Police, is a known advocate for the security sector in Congress. 

The senator said he even “walked the extra mile” to help ensure that the NTF-ELCAC’s controversial P19.1-billion budget for 2021 was passed despite staunch opposition by senators in the minority bloc.

But Lacson’s support for the NTF-ELCAC is now waning after Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr – vice chair of the task force – supposedly reneged on their promise to the senator that Parlade would be “eased out” of the task force. 

According to Lacson, Lorenzana and Esperon supposedly told him as early as April 27 that they want to boot out Parlade from the NTF-ELCAC just before the latter retires from the military. 

Rappler has reached out to Lorenzana and Esperon to confirm this, but they have yet to reply as of posting time. 

Instead of firing notorious red-tagger Parlade, however, Esperon announced on Monday, May 10, that the NTF-ELCAC would have six additional spokespersons. 

“Secretary Lorenzana promised to me, as early as April 27, that he and Secretary Esperon agreed to ease out Parlade. Now, the day before yesterday I think, Secretary Esperon himself sent me a message saying they will relieve Parlade just before he retires. My suggestion was to relieve him now and rehire him after he retires, so there’s no constitutional issue,” Lacson disclosed. 

“So I don’t see any sense with them insisting to retain him. It’s like there’s no point listening or discussing this issue with people who don’t want to listen to reason anymore,” he added. 

Senators have repeatedly said Parlade’s appointment to the task force is unconstitutional, since Section 5 of the 1987 Constitution states that no active member of the armed forces should be appointed in any capacity to a civilian position in government.

Several senators have earlier sought to defund the NTF-ELCAC’s multi-billion budget this year in the wake of Parlade’s relentless red-tagging of community pantry organizers and other civilians. 

Parlade called senators “stupid” for proposing this, prompting a majority of the chamber – among them Lacson – to file a resolution seeking to censure the NTF-ELCAC spokesperson for his “disrespectful, derogatory, and demeaning” statements against senators. – Rappler.com

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.