Senators recommend firing Parlade as anti-insurgency spokesman

The Senate on Wednesday, March 10, adopted a committee report recommending the removal of Lieutenant General Antonio Parlade Jr as spokesman of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC). 

Filed on February 22, Committee Report 186 contains reports on the red-tagging of certain celebrities, personalities, institutions, and organizations. Senator Panfilo Lacson, chair of the Senate committee on national defense and security, peace, unification and reconciliation, sponsored the report.

During the session on Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon proposed an amendment to remove Parlade because of the "potential conflict between the policies of NTF-ELCAC and the mandate of the security sector by engaging a spokesperson who does not hold concurrent mandates in the security forces."

Drilon cited Article 16, Section 5 of the 1987 Constitution, which 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."

The initial committee report only suggested the creation of proper guidelines to prevent the red-tagging brought by "misunderstanding between the public and the military."

During Wednesday's session, Lacson emphasized that the NTF-ELCAC is a civilian task force.

"The NTF-ELCAC is not a military task force, it is a civilian task force precisely tasked or mandated to attend some development projects in cleared barangays – meaning cleared of insurgents," he said.

Lacson earlier pointed out that Parlade's appointment to a civil task force could be illegal.

The Senate also adopted an amendment from Drilon which moves to criminalize red-tagging.

Parlade's red-tagging

Parlade has been under fire for red-tagging government critics, including celebrities.

In February, the Armed Force of the Philippines (AFP) launched a probe into Parlade for red-tagging Tetch Torres-Tupas of Inquirer.net over a report on two Aetas charged with terrorism.

On October 21, 2020, Parlade red-tagged actress Liza Soberano in a message posted on the NTF-ELCAC's Facebook page, after Soberano joined an online activity of Gabriela Youth.

He had also red-tagged actress Angel Locsin and Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray for being vocal about their advocacies and for supporting human rights groups.

Parlade's remarks and political stance go against AFP guidelines barring the military from issuing pronouncements and political statements. – with reports from Rambo Talabong/Rappler.com