MANILA (2nd UPDATE) - At least 2 senators on Wednesday called for the defunding of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) after its spokesman Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade likened the community pantry efforts to "Satan giving apple to Eve."
"Oh my! We should move to defund NTF-ELCAC in the next budget. Sayang lang pera ng taong bayan," Sen. Joel Villanueva said in a tweet.
"Reallocate the current P19B budget for ayuda. Mas kailangan ito ng taumbayan kaysa sa mga ganitong kalokohan!"
Villanueva's statement was in reaction to Parlade's efforts to justify their actions against the organizer of the first community pantry, Ana Patricia Non.
Parlade said their task force had received messages from netizens about placards with the hashtag #StopKillingFarmers.
He also compared the community pantry efforts to the Bible story on the fall of Man.
“Isang tao lang ‘yan ‘di ba? Si Ana, si Patricia. Same with Satan. Si Satan binigyan ng apple si Eve. Doon lang nagsimula ‘yon (She did it alone right? That Ana Patricia? [It’s the] same with Satan. Satan gave an apple to Eve. It started from there),” Parlade was quoted as saying on One News.
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian supported Villanueva's sentiment.
"I agree bro. If these are the kind of people who will spend hard earned taxpayer's money, then it's not worth it," Gatchalian said.
Human rights lawyer Chel Diokno said the move would "require a lot of consultations and negotiations within the legislature but it’s good it’s being put on the table."
"I do agree with Senator Villanueva and Senator Gatchalian, we should use that money they're giving to ELCAC for COVID and problems we're really facing today. Ang laki laki ng problema natin sa pandemya, ba't yan ang inaatupag?" he told ANC.
(We're facing big problems during this pandemic, why is the ELCAC focusing on this?)
"It's also a question of transparency, saan ba talaga napupunta ang pera na yan (where does the money go). That’s people’s money."
LACSON HITS PARLADE'S 'UNCALLED FOR' STATEMENTS
In a statement, Sen. Panfilo Lacson slammed Parlade for continuing to issue "uncalled-for" statements, which have affected the insurgency task force's mission.
Lacson added that while he "stubbornly fought" to retain the task force's P16.5 billion funding, he is now unsure of defending its budget this year.
"I am not sure if I will still defend their budget this year with the same tenacity as I did the previous years - especially if the NTF-ELCAC spokesperson continues to threaten to affect its mission with uncalled-for statements," the senator's statement read.
He also noted that the funding for NTF-ELCAC was supposedly intended for development programs and projects in the areas in the country "cleared of the presence of the NPA, and not for armed anti-insurgency operations."
Lacson also urged military officials to remain truthful to their sworn duties.
"I have not asked for any favor in return, except for them to be true to their oath, apart from being professional and honest in handling the funds of their respective commands," he said.
"Working together should be a two-way street, if we want to make it work. I have consistently supported the Armed Forces of the Philippines by augmenting their appropriations even more than they have requested."
The senator was also among those who recommended Parlade's removal as spokesperson of NTF-ELCAC, emphasizing that his civilian position in the task force infringes on the Constitution because he is currently a military commander.
The said portion of the Charter states that "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."
- With a report from Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News