MANILA (UPDATE) — Controversial officer Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade, Jr. said Thursday that he has resigned as spokesman of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), ahead of his retirement later this month from the military service.
Parlade, also head of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Southern Luzon Command, said he submitted his "letter of resignation addressed to the President almost a month ago".
President Rodrigo Duterte is the chairman of NTF-ELCAC, while National Security Adviser Sec. Hermogenes Esperon, Jr. is vice-chair.
Duterte accepted Parlade's resignation, said Malacañang spokesman Harry Roque in a separate news briefing on Thursday.
"I want to ease the pressure to the NTF-ELCAC principals who are being questioned by legislators for designating me in spite [of] my being in the active service," Parlade, who is reaching the military's mandatory retirement age of 56 on July 26, said of his resignation from the task force.
Video courtesy of PTV
Parlade previously made headlines for linking several female celebrities, Senate workers, and lawmakers to the communist movement without presenting proof. He also called senators "stupid" for seeking to defund the NTF-ELCAC.
Some lawmakers have said the Constitution bars an active member of the military like Parlade from holding a civilian post, such as in the NTF-ELCAC.
"There are so many legal bases justifying my appointment as constitutional but I will not belabor myself with those. I am happy that there are now six more civilian NTF spokespersons who shall carry on the fight passionately and with conviction," said Parlade.
"Even then, I want to assure our critics that I am not running away from this fight."
He said he would "continue with my patriotic duty to defend our country" and end the 52-year-old Communist Party of the Philippines–New People's Army, with "whatever legal way."
RESIGNATION NOT ENOUGH?
Bayan Muna Rep. Ferdinand Gaite said Parlade "used and abused his position to attack government critics, spread fake news, and red-tag activists and organizations, he should be held accountable for this."
"The NTF-ELCAC shouldn't also be spared from accountability. They have enabled Paralde's crusade of lies. 'Di sasapat na mag-resign lang si Parlade, dapat ay buwagin na ang grupong iyan na nag-aaksaya lang ng pondo ng bayan," Gaite said in a statement.
(Parlade's resignation will not suffice. That group, which only wastes public funds, should be abolished.)
Some critics earlier said the task force's P19-billion budget should instead be allocated to the government's pandemic response.
"Sa nalalapit na (in the upcoming) 2022 Budget deliberations, we will see to it that NTF-ELCAC's budget would be thoroughly scrutinized. We call on our fellow lawmakers in the House and Senate to not let this waste of taxpayers money pass unchecked," said Gaite.
In contrast, Sen. Panfilo "Ping" Lacson said the NTF-ELCAC, which provides livelihood programs in areas cleared of insurgents, "is a long overdue solution" the CPP-NPA's tactics to maintain influence.
"The senate’s legal position is clear and whatever legal discussion or debate on his official designation in a civilian office while still in the active military service has now become moot and academic. I am glad it has ended that way," he said in reaction to Parlade's resignation.
Sen. Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan said Parlade's resignation was "a welcome development", given that the Senate "already pointed out that his continued holding of this position was irregular, anomalous and contrary to the Constitution."
"It will also spare the AFP as an institution further embarrassment and will send the signal that the AFP is a professional organization that upholds and respects the Constitution and the Rule of Law," he said.
Maj. Gen. Bartolome Bacarro, a Medal of Valor awardee who is currently the Philippine Army's 2nd Infantry Division commander, will replace Parlade at the AFP SolCom, according to Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana.
Parlade belongs to the same class of 1987 of the Philippine Military Academy as AFP chief Gen. Cirilito Sobejana.
Bacarro, a member of PMA Class of 1988, was conferred the highest military decoration in combat following an encounter with New People's Army rebels in Isabela in 1991.
He was commandant of the Cadet Corps of the PMA in Baguio City when cadet Darwin Dormitorio died from hazing, prompting his resignation in 2019 due to command responsibility.
He and then PMA superintendent Lt. Gen. Ronnie Evangelista were charged over the hazing but were cleared by government prosecutors for lack of probable cause.