Parlade designation to task force questioned

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    SENATE minority leader Franklin Drilon on Wednesday night questioned the designation of Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr., chief of the military’s Southern Luzon Command, as spokesman of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), saying it could be unconstitutional”

    Drilon raised this concern as the Senate committee on national defense and security chaired by Sen. Panfilo Lacson presented its committee report to the plenary on its investigation on the red-tagging of certain individuals by the Armed Forces.

    Citing paragraph 4, Section 5, Article 16 of the 1987 Constitution, Drilon said Parlade, being an active military officer, could not be appointed as NTF-ELCAC spokesman because the position should be held by a civilian.

    The provision read: “No member of the Armed Forces in the active service shall, at any time, be appointed or designated in any capacity to a civilian position in Government, including government-owned or controlled corporations or any of their subsidiaries.”
    Parlade, known as the “red-tagging general,” said in a Facebook post that he has asked to be relieved of the job as task force spokesman.

    He said: “On Senator Drilon’s statement that I should be removed as NTF ELCAC spokesperson as an active member of the AFP, here is my response.

    Thank you Senators for freeing me from this difficult but challenging role, as if I wanted it, as if I’m being paid double, as if I will stop speaking against the CPP NPA and its front organizations while no longer spox but as SOLCOM Cmdr. I actually begged to relinquish this job to a civilian spokesperson when I was designated Unified Cmdr but the NTF requested me to stay and continue what I’ve started.”

    “Honestly it’s not a question of constitutionality, since the NTF is not even an agency but an ad hoc body organized for a specific mission,” also said adding there many active military officers in the AFP officers in the NTF-ELCAC.

    Drilon, during the Wednesday session, “I would like to think that the sponsor (Lacson) will agree that the designation as a spokesperson not only poses problems in his (Parlade’s) 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.”

    Lacson agreed with Drilon, saying Parlade should not be holding two positions “simply because there might be some confusion and whatever he (Parlade) says as spokesperson of the NTF-ELCAC necessarily reflects on his superiors in the AFP, if not the AFP itself.”

    Lacson said one of the committee’s recommendations is that the NTF-ELCAC chair pick a spokesperson not holding a concurrent position in the security sector so as to prevent a potential conflict in policies.

    Lacson, however, said it is best for the Supreme Court have a last say on the matter. He said there have been instances wherein active military and police officers were given concurrent positions in some civilian entities.

    In the meantime, he said, the Senate will send a copy of the committee report to the AFP chief, Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, and the secretary of national defense “so this violation of the Constitution should be rectified.”

    The Senate committee conducted a series of hearings on the red-tagging issue after Parlade implied that actress Liza Soberano has been siding with the New People’s Army, the armed group of the Communist Party of the Philippines, after she joined an online forum on women’s rights by Gabriela, a women’s party-list group.

    Parlade also figured in deeper controversy last month when he tagged an online reporter as a “propagandist” for allegedly aiding terrorists when she came out with a story, which was based on court documents, about two Aetas seeking help from the Supreme Court after they were allegedly tortured by state forces.

    Amid criticism from various sectors, Parlade said he did not mean to scare the reporter who, he earlier said, could be penalized under the controversial Anti-Terrorism Law for allegedly spreading what he called lies.

    Sobejana earlier said cannot impose punishment on Parlade for remarks he made as NTF-ELCAC spokesman because the task force is an office higher than the Armed Forces.

    Sen. Francis Pangilinan said, “It is actually an anomalous situation that you are under the chain of command as an active officer and yet you cannot be held to account because you have been designated as a soldier, as an officer and to be spokesperson of the NTF-ELCAC…

    Therefore the anomalous situation and the danger is, a lower-ranking officer of the AFP will now bypass the chief-of-staff and that is precisely what the chain of command is all about,” Pangilinan said.

    Parlade, in his post, said among active officers in the is Sobejana, “who is a member of the ExeCom (executive committee), as well as dozens more in the 12 different clusters, and all the Regional TFs (task forces) and Prov TFs. We may have to remove them too. Tuwa na lng ng CPP NPA NDF.” — With Victor Reyes