Esperon confirms gag order but Badoy insists there is none

So who's telling the truth?

Officials of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) have issued contradicting statements about the censorship of its spokespersons due to the "red-tagging" of community pantries.

Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy, one of NTF-ELCAC spokespersons, denied that there was a cease and desist order imposed on her and Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr., another NTF-ELCAC spokesperson, that prevents them from making further statements about the linking of community pantries to communist insurgency.

"There is no gag order by the National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon on me and Lt. Gen. Parlade. He has not silenced us. A gag order means that we have been asked to stop issuing public statements and this is not the case with Lt. General Antonio Parlade and I," Badoy said on Monday, April 26

But Esperon, who is the NTF-ELCAC vice chairman, confirmed that he issued a gag order on Badoy and Parlade.

"Yes, I did if only to emphasize that NTF-ELCAC or Gen. Parlade or Usec. Badoy are not against 'bayanihan' or community pantries," Esperon told reporters.

Despite the confirmation coming from her immediate boss, Badoy argued that Esperon only told them to "simply cease making comments about the community pantry" now that they have delivered their "message" to the public.

Badoy said they will "continue to speak the truth" about the Communist Party of the Philippines - New People's Army - National Democratic Front of the Philippines (CPP-NPA-NDFP) "so that their deceptions and their pretensions and lies may be known by our people."

Parlade, for his part, have no latest reaction on the issue.

Parlade and Badoy came under fire for tagging without basis Ana Patricia Non, the organizer of the Maginhawa community pantry in Quezon City, to the CPP-NPA. Non had denied she was part of any group related to communist groups.

Due to its positive impact on the society, the Maginhawa community pantry, which offers free food and other basic necessities to people affected by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, sparked the establishment of more than 300 pantries across the country.

The red-tagging prompted several senators and House representatives to call for the defunding of the NTF-ELCAC and realign their budget for the government's pandemic response.