Amid red-tagging issues, Lacson now ‘unsure’ about defending DND budget

Published April 22, 2021, 4:35 PM

by Mario Casayuran

Senator Panfilo Lacson on Thursday, April 22, admitted that he is now “not sure” if he would still defend the proposed 2022 budget of the Department of National Defense (DND) with the same tenacity as he did in previous years.

Senator Panfilo M. Lacson

‘’Especially if the NTF-ELCAC (National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict) spokesperson (Lt, Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr.) continues to threaten to affect its mission with uncalled-for statements,’’ Lacson said in his statement.

The red-baiting statements ascribed to Parlade on the growth of community pantry, particularly in Quezon City, triggered calls for the defunding of the NTF-ELCAC.

Lacson recalled that since 2016, he has been defending the budget of the DND and its attached agencies as vice chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

The senator also chairs the Senate national defense and security committee, which conducted the inquiry on the red-tagging issues concerning government officials.

‘’Last year, I stubbornly fought to retain the P16.5-billion anti-insurgency fund of the NTF-ELCAC for 2021, arguing that it was intended for development programs, activities and projects in areas that had been cleared of the presence of the New People’s Army (NPA), and not for armed anti-insurgency operations,’’ he said.

He lamented, however, the DND’s supposed disregard of the Senate’s call for the immediate relief of Parlade as NTF-ELCAC spokesperson.

“Not only because his civilian position is violative of the Constitution. He has in fact, on many occasions, become a ‘liability’ to the overall efforts of the government, as well as the government’s position on the pending 37 petitions against the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 before the Supreme Court, mainly due to his careless remarks and flawed interpretation of certain provisions of the law,” Lacson said of Parlade.

‘’Unfortunately, the DND has openly ignored the Senate in that regard,” he said.

Lacson stressed that he has consistently supported the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) by augmenting their funds “even more than they have requested”. 

‘’The same is true in my capacity as Vice Chairman of the Committee on Defense in the Commission on Appointments  (CA), in ensuring the confirmation of the senior officers of the AFP will not be disturbed or delayed. I have not asked for any favor in return, except for them to be true to their oath, apart from being professional and honest in handling the funds of their respective commands,” he explained.

‘’Working together should be a two-way street, if we want to make it work,” Lacson, however, pointed out.

On questions regarding Parlade’s comments on community pantries, opposition Senator Francis ‘’Kiko’’ Pangilinan also said: “Dapat sa kanya tumahimik na lang dahil nakakasira sa imahen ng AFP bilang isang disiplinado at propesyunal na institusyon ang kanyang mga bitiw na salita na walang basehan at wala sa luga (Parlade should have kept silent because he is destroying the image of the AFP as a disciplined and professional institution. His statements have no basis and are out of line).”

‘’Kung sa ganyang baluktot na pag-iisip at palakad napupunta ang 19 bilyong pisong budget ng NTF-ELCAC ay dapat bawiin na ito at ibigay sa ayuda ng mahihirap (Due to warped thinking and direction, the P19 billion funding for NTF-ELCAC should be withdrawn and given as aid to the poor),’’ he added.