MANILA - The spokespersons of the country's anti-communist insurgency council have been ordered to stop making remarks on community pantries, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Jr. said Sunday.
"Lest it be misunderstood, they will desist (from) making statements on community pantries, Esperon, who serves as vice chair of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), said of Lt. General Antonio Parlade Jr. and Communications Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy.
"Yes, I did if only to emphasize that NTF-ELCAC or Gen. Parlade or Usec. Badoy are not against bayanihan or community pantries," Esperon said of the gag order.
The move comes after the two last week issued red-tagging remarks against community pantries
"NTF-ELCAC will support, observe and assist CPs (community pantries), as does the whole of government," Esperon said.
Several senators have sought for Parlade's removal from the NTF-ELCAC and to defund it. The body is chaired by President Rodrigo Duterte.
Parlade had earlier said of Maginhawa community pantry organizer Ana Patricia Non: "Alam mo, isang tao lang 'yan, 'di ba? Si Ana Patricia, 'di ba? Same with Satan. Si Satan, binigyan ng apple si Eve. Doon lang nagsimula 'yun."
(You know it's only one person. It's Ana Patricia, right? Same with Satan. Satan gave Eve an apple. That's where everything began.)
Badoy also accused Non of being a member of underground mass organization Artista at Manunulat ng Sambayanan (ARMAS).
Parlade denied the council was profiling community pantries and their organizers, saying they were "just checking" on their situation.
The alleged profiling prompted the Maginhawa community pantry to temporarily close for a day last week as, according to Non, she feared for her safety. It reopened Wednesday last week after officials told groups to leave community pantries alone.
Reacting to the senators' call to defund the task force, Parlade had said: ""Sila ang stupid kung ito'y binabawi nila. Pinirmahan nila 'yang batas na 'yan para maging serbisyo, ipagpatuloy yung programa ng gobyerno para sa mahihirap. Ngayon, sasabihin nila, ide-defund nila yung NTF-ELCAC?... I'm a spokesperson of the NTF-ELCAC but I don't receive any single peso from the NTF-ELCAC. I'm doing this as a second job."
(The senators are stupid for saying they want to remove the fund. They were the ones who signed the law to be able to extend service and continue the program of government for the poor. And now, they are saying they will defund the NTF-ELCAC?)
"Alam nila yun na hindi yun papunta sa NTF-ELCAC, at hindi yun ginagamit sa red-tagging, at hindi yun ginagamit sa intelligence, at hindi yun ginagamit sa profiliing, kung yan man ang gustong tawag n'yo dun," added the Armed Forces of the Philippines Southern Luzon Command chief.
(They know that those funds don't go to the NTF-ELCAC, that those are not used for red-tagging, for intelligence gathering, and for profiling, if that's how you call it.)
Esperon, nevertheless, acknowledged Parlade's efforts as commander of the SOLCOM, "bringing basic services to disadvantaged or calamity stricken barangays and residents... with no personal agenda but to help."
Badoy is also a Bayanihan enthusiast, he added.
In a separate statement, Esperon "implored all the concerned stakeholders and the general public to understand the import of what the NTF-ELCAC and (its Barangay Development Program) seek to accomplish."
He said their projects are seen to bring development to former conflict-prone communities so that people abandon the communist insurgency movement.
The BDP has been allocated over P16 billion from this year's national budget.
Former Vice President Jejomar Binay "congratulated" Esperon for issuing the gag order saying, "It's about time."
"Hindi nakakatulong ang red-tagging sa panahon ng pandemya. Nakakadagdag pa sa gulo. Kaya tama lang na tumahimik na sila," Binay said in a statement.
(Red-tagging is not helpful during a pandemic. It sows trouble. It's just right they keep quiet."
"Red-tagging persons who are being hailed internationally for helping the hungry only reminds the public of government’s shortcomings. And Parlade should realize that by linking the so-called Left to acts of kindness, he is giving them tons of positive publicity," added Binay.
- with report from Chiara Zambrano, ABS-CBN News