At least seven senators so far have expressed their view that the P19-billion budget allotted for the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) should be withdrawn and re-allocated instead to assist those who are struggling the most during the pandemic.
Such sentiments came after the task force’s spokesperson, Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr., gave a scathing remark that equated Maginhawa community pantry organizer Ana Patricia Non’s generous initiative to Satan’s temptation of Eve.
“Isang tao lang ‘yan ‘di ba? Si Ana, si Patricia ‘di ba. Same with Satan. Si Satan binigyan ng apple si Eve, doon lang nagsimula ‘yon,” Parlade said during an interview in One News’ The Chiefs last Tuesday.
On Twitter, Senator Joel Villanueva aired his dismay over Parlade’s remark while echoing his stance supporting community pantries and denouncing the task force’s rampant red-tagging.
Responding to Villanueva’s tweet, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian posted his agreement, arguing that allotting “hard-earned taxpayer’s money” to such a task force is “not worth it.”
Senator Nancy Binay seems to concur with both senators’ sentiments. In an interview with CNN Philippines’ News Night, Binay highlighted the need to review the task force’s budget in the upcoming budget deliberations for the next fiscal year.
“For me, we should all concentrate on how we will survive this pandemic. The priority should not be about red-tagging or the communist problem. We should prioritize our response with this pandemic,” Binay said.
When asked by media reporters to comment on the issue, Senator Risa Hontiveros replied that she agrees “a hundred percent” to re-channel the task force’s budget.
“Nung nakaraang taon, hinadlangan at tinutulan na namin ‘yan (NTF-ELCAC’s proposed budget), noong budget debates pa lamang,” Hontiveros added. It bears noting that last November, she also recommended to re-purpose the task force’s hefty budget towards the government’s rehabilitation programs following the destruction of Typhoon Rolly.
Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon dared President Rodrigo Duterte himself to immediately realign NTF-ELCAC’s budget, citing the need for the task force to comply with submitting a quarterly report reflecting the utilization of its funds, as outlined in the General Appropriations Act of 2021.
“I will request the Senate leadership to require NTC-ELCAC to submit the quarterly report,” Drilon said to One News. “These are not small funds. Magagamit sa pulitika iyan.”
Through a stern-sounding tweet, Senator Grace Poe reminded the task force of its due diligence to use its budget for the good of the community, and not for baseless red-tagging and making “malicious accusations.”
In another report by ABS-CBN News, Poe reiterated her position to put the task force’s budget elsewhere since its members “are not listening.”
Senator Richard Gordon likewise took to Twitter to air his rather serious stance, going so far as calling Parlade “imbecilic, stupid, and shameful” while telling the same to “go back to the military” instead of “harassing our people with red-tagging accusations.” Gordon also argues that Parlade’s actions are tantamount to “a violation of freedom of expression” and of “the right of the people to redress from grievances.”
For their calls to defund the task force, Parlade called the aforementioned group of senators “stupid” for signing off on NTF-ELCAC’s budget and then voicing their opinions to take back the same.
“Do they want to remove that [budget] or did they not understand the law they signed? So I think that’s unfair what these senators are saying … and I’m telling you they are the ones who are stupid if they want to take back the funds,” he said. “They signed off on that law to be of service, continue government programs for the poor, and then they’ll defund it?” the General said.