Senate of the Philippines

5 senators seek probe into P19.1-B budget of anti-insurgency task force

Mara Cepeda
5 senators seek probe into P19.1-B budget of anti-insurgency task force

Pictured here at NTF-ELCAC spokesperson Lorraine Badoy and Antonio Parlade Jr.

File photos courtesy of Senate PRIB

How has the NTF-ELCAC been spending taxpayers' money given its 'baseless' red-tagging of civilians?

Senators are not backing down in their tussle with the red-tagging spokespersons of the government’s anti-insurgency task force.

On Monday, April 26, at least 5 senators officially called for a Senate inquiry on how the task force is using its P19.1-billion budget given the “baseless” and “unsubstantiated” public claims of its spokespersons – Lieutenant General Antonio Parlade Jr and Communications Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy.

Senator Joel Villanueva led 4 other senators in filing Proposed Senate Resolution (PSR) No. 707 which seeks to ask the appropriate committee to look into the effectivity of the programs of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Insurgency (NTF-ELCAC) and how it’s been spending taxpayers’ money.

Other authors of PSR 707 include the following senators:

  • Ralph Recto, Senate President Pro-Tempore
  • Nancy Binay
  • Grace Poe
  • Sherwin Gatchalian

Parlade is embroiled in a word war with senators after he called them “stupid” last week for seeking to remove the NTF-ELCAC’s P19.1-billion budget. 

Prior to this, Badoy accused the Senate employees’ union of being a front for the communist underground, sparking outrage from the employees and senators themselves.

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr, vice chairperson of the task force, already barred Parlade and Badoy from further issuing comments on the community pantries. But Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon still plans to file a separate resolution seeking to censure Parlade.

Draw the line

In filing PSR 707, the senators slammed the NTF-ELCAC’s “baseless” red-tagging of not just community pantries, but even celebrities who have criticized President Rodrigo Duterte’s government in the past. 

“There is a need to draw the line between legitimate government counter-insurgency strategies against internal armed conflicts and threads on the one hand, and the silencing and crippling of innocent civilians with baseless and unsubstantiated claims, on the other,” said the 5 senators. 

Given scarce government resources during the pandemic, there is a need to review the NTF-ELCAC’s performance and check if the task force deserves its multi-billion budget this year, the senators said.

“There is a need to review the performance of the NTF-ELCAC in fulfilling its mandate vis-à-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 added. 

Lawmakers from the Senate and the House of Representatives earlier sought to defund the NTF-ELCAC due to what they claimed were irresponsible statements of Parlade and Badoy that harmed civilians.  

Before the 2021 General Appropriations Act or the law on the national budget was passed in December 2020, opposition senators recommended that the task force’s budget be reapportioned to health, social welfare, calamity response, and housing programs

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Senators had urged Duterte in March to fire Parlade as NTF-ELCAC spokesperson, saying his behavior was not helping the government’s counter-insurgency effort.

They also said Parlade’s appointment to the NTF-ELCAC 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 like the NTF-ELCAC. 

A bill is also now pending in the Senate that seeks to criminalize red-tagging. – 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.