Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana insisted it's not his job to talk to Lieutenant General Antonio Parlade Jr about his controversial and dangerous claims about community pantries and its organizers.
This after Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said earlier on Thursday, April 22 that Parlade, as an active-duty general, reports to Lorenzana as head of the defense department with supervision over the military.
Asked by Rappler if he has plans to talk to Parlade, Lorenzana said on Thursday, "No. He was speaking as spokesman of NTF-ELCAC. That is the job of Secretary Esperon." Parlade is also commander of the military's Southern Luzon Command.
NTF-ELCAC stands for National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, a task force accused of red-tagging government critics and media without basis. It's chaired by President Rodrigo Duterte himself and is vice-chaired by National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr.
It counts several departments as its members, including the defense department headed by Lorenzana.
Roque had said in his press conference that day that he would speak with Lorenzana about Parlade's remarks.
"Well, maybe Secretary Año and I will talk to Secretary Delfin Lorenzana because that's the proper chain of command. I think General Parlade reports to Secretary Lorenzana," said Roque. Following the military chain of command, Parlade reports to Armed Forces chief of staff General Cirilito Sobejana.
Sobejana said on Thursday he has already cautioned Parlade to exercise "due diligence" in his public remarks. He refused to further comment on Parlade's controversial remarks, however.
Like Sobejana, Lorenzana didn't want to make a stand on Parlade's remarks even if his department is a member of the NTF-ELCAC which Parlade represents as spokesman and executive director.
Other members of the NTF-ELCAC like Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr, and Interior Secretary Eduardo Año have also not responded to Rappler's request for comment specifically on Parlade's words.
NTF-ELCAC first drew controversy when its Facebook page reposted content that baselessly claimed that community pantries were being used for communist recruitment.
Parlade, speaking as its spokesman, then admitted the task force was profiling community pantry organizers. Then on April 20, he likened Maginhawa community pantry founder Ana Patricia Non to "satan" and implied that there was something irregular about how community pantries sprung up in different parts of the country so fast.
In contrast, Roque described community pantries as a "spontaneous movement" of charity and "bayanihan spirit" among Filipinos. The Palace position, he said, was that NTF-ELCAC should leave the community pantries alone.
However, Malacañang stopped short of reprimanding Parlade for his remarks, saying such claims were part of the "free market place of ideas." – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.