MANILA - Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. should focus on the military's Southern Luzon Command instead of calling lawmakers names and linking organizers of community pantries to the communist movement, a senator said Monday.
Speaking to ANC, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian said he was disappointed that Parlade, who serves as the spokesperson of the country's anti-insurgency task force, had to resort to name-calling and red-baiting.
"Not because we have a difference of opinion, we will start degrading one another. The problem is Parlade. That's why all of these things are now becoming a hot topic," he said.
"The community pantries [are] an inspiration to many especially to ordinary Filipinos. Even here in Valenzuela, in our city, we now have about 30 community pantries all launched by ordinary Filipinos.
"None of them are connected to any NPA (New People's Army) or any terrorists. So, in other words, the name-calling and the red-tagging of community pantries is uncalled for," he said.
Since the military official is also holding a civilian post, which is a violation of the 1987 Constitution, Parlade should go back to his original post, the senator added.
Gatchalian said Communications Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy, also the spokesperson of National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, should also "be very careful with her statements."
"She stands to represent an agency who was given huge amount of money to fight the insurgency. So, we can't use that...money to hurl lies and to accuse people, red-tagging people without any basis," he said.
A gag order has been issued against Parlade and Badoy following their remarks against community pantries, which have popped up across the country amid hunger experienced by Filipinos due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Parlade had likened the charitable activity to "Satan giving apple to Eve." Badoy also accused an organizer of community pantry of being a member of an underground mass organization.
Amid calls to defund the NTF-ELCAC, Gatchalian said there was "merit" to look into the agency's budget, which includes a P16-billion barangay development program for the construction of bridges and farm-to-market roads, and livelihood, among others.
"If we have people like Parlade making decisions, we are not confident that they will make the right decision and spend the money judiciously," he said.