Hold NTF-Elcac to account
So National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. has gone and done what he should have done early on in the display of manic behavior by the two officials speaking for the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac). Esperon said he had told Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. and Communications Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy to “desist from issuing further statements on the community pantries,” in the hope of ending the ridiculous spectacle of high officials, and even the Palace, expressing support for the food aid project while the Parlade-Badoy combine rants about the alleged red-ness of it.
But both officials nonchalantly deny being silenced, and say that, well, they have delivered their message. At any rate, it seemed too late for Esperon to say, “The official stand of the NTF-Elcac is to support and encourage bayanihan/community pantries.” Already, Congress is making noises about the task force’s P19.2-billion budget and threatening to reallocate the money to better use, such as to augment the government response to the raging COVID-19 pandemic.
The public should hold Congress to its declared plans of action. It’s one thing for lawmakers to call out Parlade-Badoy in unison with the flood of voices upholding the community pantries sprouting nationwide, like mushrooms after rain, as a valiant response of the people to government neglect; it’s quite another to push the verbal censure to the actual removal of the two officials who are willfully tarring private citizens engaged in an altruistic effort — thus endangering their lives — on to the deconstruction of the task force, and to the realignment of its fat budget to urgent concerns.
The Senate has been waiting for the Department of National Defense (DND) to act on its early recommendations on the NTF-Elcac, prepared by Sen. Panfilo Lacson’s committee on national defense and security, and that include Parlade’s removal as spokesperson. Lacson has raised the point that a military officer like Parlade, who heads the Southern Luzon Command, cannot hold that civilian post; it’s a point so far ignored by the DND, suggesting that the general enjoys favored status despite, as Lacson put it, Parlade’s insistence “on making commentaries on things he does not understand.”
And despite Parlade’s contention that the senators would be “stupid” to think of realigning a budget they themselves had approved, it would be useful for the Senate committee on finance to investigate how the NTF-Elcac had been disbursing its budget, as Lacson suggested. The details would surely be of interest to taxpayers, who rarely if ever are rewarded of seeing the fruits of their labor improving the quality of their lives.
The same taxpayers would also want to see something concrete result from 1-Pacman Rep. Mikee Romero’s statement that he and other members of the House want Parlade-Badoy “to give details as to where and how the funds are being used, and how their vilification tactics translate to having more communist rebels turning their backs on insurgency.” More than censure, the Makabayan bloc wants the duo dismissed for being a “serious threat to the public.”
Badoy, who recently called on “those good hearts who have donated their dollars” to Ana Patricia Non “to please ask for a clear accounting” — insinuating that the organizer of the phenomenal Maginhawa Community Pantry is up to no good — should, in turn, have the task force’s figures ready. Non has risen to the challenge and agreed to present a full accounting of donated funds. And Heidi Mendoza, a former officer in charge of the Commission on Audit and now undersecretary of the United Nations’ Office of Internal Oversight, has posted that she wants an accounting of the NTF-Elcac’s insurgency funds — a not unreasonable demand concerning public funds.
Let it all hang out. Parlade’s sidekick also has much to answer for, having merrily engaged in an orgy of red-tagging that involved unions allied with Courage, the federation of government workers. Early this month, Badoy and National Intelligence Coordinating Agency director general Alex Monteagudo said the Senate employees’ union Senado, the Judiciary Employees Association, and the Supreme Court Employees Association are “communist fronts” that “serve as the eyes and ears” of the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed and political wings.
The Senate should make haste to protect its people and those of the judiciary from these wild accusations that, Badoy claimed, “are not opinions … [or] our personal views [but] the official stand of the government.” It’s true: Whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad.
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