The designation of Lieutenant General Antonio Parlade’s Jr. as head spokesperson of the Duterte administration’s anti-insurgency task force while still an active member of the military might be unconstitutional.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon broached the idea when the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security, chaired by Sen. Panfilo Lacson, reported out its committee report on its investigation into the alleged red-tagging activities by the military.
Drilon said Article 16, Section 5, Paragraph 4 of the Constitution states that “no member of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in active service shall at any time be appointed or designated in any capacity to a civilian position in the government.” Since the National Task Force to End Local Communist Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) is civilian in nature, Drilon said Parlade, who is also the AFP Southern Luzon command chief, should relinquish his role as the task force’s spokesperson.
“I would like to think that the sponsor will agree that (his) designation as a spokesperson not only poses problems on his personality but also could be questioned on the ground that we are designating an active military officer in a purely civilian office, which is prohibited under the Constitution,” Drilon said during Wednesday’s plenary discussion.
Lacson agreed with Drilon, saying the committee report has also included a recommendation that Parlade should not be entitled to hold two positions in the NTF-ELCAC and in the AFP as well.
“Simply because there might be some confusion and whatever he says as spokesperson of the NTF-ELCAC necessarily reflects on his superiors in the AFP, if not the AFP itself,” said Lacson, a former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief.
According to Lacson, the committee has recommended that the NTF-ELCAC tap a spokesperson who is not holding any concurrent position in the security sector to avoid potential conflict in policies.
But he said there have been instances in the past when military and police officials were able to hold concurrent positions in some civilian bodies. But this can be rectified.
“Maybe it’s only a matter of questioning it before the Supreme Court and the Constitution is quite clear,” he said.
Lacson suggested that after the Senate adopts the committee report, a copy of the Upper Chamber’s recommendation be sent to the AFP Chief of Staff, as well as to the secretary of the national defense so this violation of the Constitution could be rectified.
“We submit that the suggested rectification should be part of the report,” Drilon agreed.
“I would like to think that the rectification would be that General Parlade should no longer be the spokesperson of the NTF-ELCAC because that designation is of doubtful validity,” he stressed.
In defending the 66-page committee report, Lacson said there is no need to criminalize red-tagging as there are already legal remedies available under the existing laws that aggrieved persons can use.
“The committee exhaustively considers the possible damage brought about by the massive information campaign of the security sector. We sought to determine if the individuals and organizations subjected to the wrongful claims of being associated with the CPP/NPA (Communist Party of the Philippines/New Peoples Army) have, in fact, no legal recourse,” Lacson said.
“Considering the claims of the Makabayan bloc on the acts of government officials that constitute the alleged red-tagging, the committee determines that sufficient legal remedies are already in place for the supposed aggrieved parties,” he further said.
Lacson’s committee report was borne out of its investigation late last year on Parlade’s post on Facebook implying that actress Liza Soberano had been recruited by communist rebels when she spoke with Gabriela Women’s party-list group. The military has tagged Gabriela as a communist front organization.
Based on the committee report, Parlade’s controversial pronouncements are considered “damaging” to the integrity of the Duterte administration’s anti-insurgency task force as well as to the AFP.