MANILA - From a defender of the anti-insurgency task force and the Department of National Defense’s (DND) programs, Senator Panfilo Lacson said Tuesday that he would no longer be "enthusiastic" in doing all these when their proposed 2022 budget reaches the Senate.
Asked if Lacson remains an ally of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), he replied: “until yesterday.”
The senator explained that lawmakers should not be carried away by any agency or task force's requests, as this would supposedly render them foolish.
“Hindi naman pupwedeng kabig lang sila ng kabig, bigay naman kami nang bigay… hindi naman na parang inutil ka na na, utu-uto ka na kung anong sabihin ng kabilang part eh sunod ka na lang nang sunod,” he said in a virtual interview with reporters.
(We cannot just give in with their requests... to the point where we look foolish and become pushovers because we follow their orders.)
Lacson explained he is doing this to "send a strong message" to the members of the task force and the national security sector, most especially if some senators objected or wanted to reduce their budget.
“Pagka mayroong nag-object dyan or pagka may nag-reduce ng budget (When someone objects or if they wanted to reduce their budget), I will not have the same enthusiasm or the same interest in implementing… hindi lang sa budget. In other legislative measure that involve the security sector," he pointed out.
"Just to send a strong message to them na hindi pupwedeng kayo na lang ng kayo yung nasusunod… is it worth standing up for that kind of attitude? Parang agrabyado naman masyado,” the senator added.
(Just to send a strong message to them that they cannot be the only one giving orders and being followed. It is very aggrieving.)
The development came a day after NTF-ELCAC Vice Chairman and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon announced the retention of Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade, Jr. as its spokesperson.
The announcement was in contrast to the senators’ insistence that Parlade’s simultaneous appointment to a civilian post is unconstitutional, and that the military officer should be immediately removed from his post.
Lacson said he sees the military official's retention in the agency, along with the appointment of 6 other spokespersons, as an act of “arrogance” on the part of Esperon.
“Parang mayroong air of arogante na hindi mo na nga sinunod yung sense of the Senate o yung call ng Senate na i-relieve eh, nagdagdag ka pa (ng spokerspersons)" the lawmaker noted.
(There is this air of arrogance because they did not heed the Senate's call for Parlade to be relieved, then on top of that they would add more spokespersons)
He added that keeping Parlade as the task force's spokesperson seemed intentional.
"Parang nanadya ang dating sa amin… para bang gusto nyong tanggalan kami ng isang spokesperson, magdadagdag pa kami… parang may feeling invincible,” he said.
(It seemed intentional. They felt invincible just by doing that)
Lacson affirmed the notion that there would be a need to check on what allowances or fees that these additional spokespersons would receive.
He also dismissed speculations that the appointment of 6 other spokespersons was a way to supposedly ease out Parlade.
“The fact is he is not yet eased out… it’s either he is in or he is out. Immaterial kung binawasan yung kanyang coverage ng pagiging spokesperson,” according to the senator.
(It is immaterial if you just lessen his coverage as a spokesperson)
Lacson recalled that Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, in a message sent to him last April 27, said that they would soon sack Parlade.
But over the weekend, Esperon allegedly reached out to him, and said that that they would sack the military official “before he retires."
“Ang retort ko sa kanya, ang suggestion ko, relieve him now and rehire him when he retires para walang constitutional issue."
(I retorted to him that Parlade should be relieved now and just rehire him when he retires so there will not be any constitutional issue)
Esperon no longer returned his message, up until Monday’s announcement of the task force regarding Parlade, said Lacson.
“Between us, cavaliers, pag nagbitaw kami ng salita sa isa’t-isa, that’s the nexus that binds us together… hindi ko maintindihan bakit hindi nila mapanghawakan ang kanilang binitiwang salita,” he explained.
(Our promises and our word as cavaliers is the nexus that binds us together. I cannot understand why they did not honor their statements)
The senator said he does not understand why NTF-ELCAC is keeping Parlade despite his series of lapses, particularly, his erroneous red-tagging of innocent individuals.
“Nakakasama pa yung kanyang pronouncements tungkol dun sa Anti-Terrorism Act na ako yung sponsor,” he said.
(His pronouncements against the Anti-Terrorism Act, of which I am a sponsor, has made things worse)
For Senator Joel Villanueva, Parlade is already a “rotten apple” that must be immediately disposed.
Villanueva believed, however, that the task force should not be judged based on the military general's acts alone.
“We have already filed Resolution No. 707 to assess NTF-ELCAC. Mr. Parlade has been a disappointment but a rotten apple does not make a bad tree. We have to be objective in assessing the institution," according to Villanueva.
"We need to see what they have accomplished, how they implemented their programs and the policies that they adopted. It will be performance based,” he added.
On Monday, Sen. Franklin Drilon also questioned Parlade's retention as the task force spokesperson.
Drilon also questioned the reason behind the appointment of 6 other new spokespersons, increasing the task force’s mouthpieces to 8 .
“Why would a mere task force need too many mouthpieces? This is unprecedented. This is the first time I am hearing of a mere task force with 8 spokespersons. Is it a judicious use of funds? It only reinforces the fear that NTF-ELCAC is a propaganda machine,” he said in a statement.