A resolution signed by majority of senators seeking to censure Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. following his “very disrespectful, derogatory and demeaning” remarks against the Senate and some of its members was filed Monday.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon filed Senate Resolution 709 with the signatures of 14 other senators namely Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, Senators Nancy Binay, Pia Cayetano, Leila de Lima, Sherwin Gatchalian, Richard Gordon, Risa Hontiveros Panfilo Lacson, Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, Grace Poe and Joel Villanueva.

Drilon authored the resolution after Parlade called the senators remark to defund the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) over red-tagging issues as “stupid”

Drilon said he filed the resolution not as a “matter of appeasing the Senate, it’s a matter of upholding the dignity of the Senate.”

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, who is also the chair of the NTF-ELCAC, has already ordered Parlade and Communications Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy, who are spokespersons of the task force, to desist from making any comments about the community pantries.

However, Drilon said that he still filed the resolution even with Esperon’s gag order saying “this is not something that we can’t let go of once these gag orders are issued”.  He added that calling senators stupid is “very disrespectful, derogatory and demeaning.”

In supporting the resolution, Sotto said Parlade should be censured if the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will not remove him.

“The sense of my colleagues is that the personalities involved were attacking the Senate,” the Senate leader said in another message to reporters.

Meanwhile, Sen. Lacson said the issue goes beyond Parlade’s attacks on the organizers of community pantries as well as against the members of the Senate. “A temporary ‘gag order’ is thus not the appropriate response,” Lacson said in a statement.

He insisted that Parlade, who is an active member of the AFP “cannot be appointed or designated in any capacity to a civilian position in the Government,” citing Art. XVI, Sec. 5, Paragraph 4 of the 1987 Constitution.

“The AFP/DND should have heeded the call of the Senate to immediately recall him back to the AFP more than a month ago. He should be censured for dabbling in politics instead of just focusing on his inherent mission as commanding general of the Southern Luzon Command – that is, to fight threats such as terrorism and insurgency,” he added.

In an interview over ANC, Sen. Win Gatchalian said Parlade’s criticism against the senators was “very disappointing”

“And just because we have a difference of opinion, we will start degrading one another,” he said.

“The problem is Parlade. That’s why all of these things are now becoming a hot topic. The community pantries is [sic] an inspiration to many, especially to ordinary Filipinos,” he added.

He stressed how even in his hometown of Valenzuela City, which now has about 30 community pantries, all launched by his personal friends, “none of them are connected with any, NPA or any terrorist.”

“So in other words, the name calling and the red tagging of community pantries is uncalled for. Now is not the time to divide the country,” he said.

He stressed that even with Esperon’s gag order on Parlade and Badoy, there is “still merit” to look into the P16 billion budget of the NTF-ELCAC.

“And if we have people like Parlade making decisions, we’re not confident that they will make the right decision and spend the money judiciously,” he said.

For his part, Sen. Joel Villanueva said the resolution is the Senate’s way to hold the NTF-ELCAC “accountable for its operations, including the baseless red tagging of community pantries and certain individuals.”

“It is our responsibility as legislators to ensure that government programs do not harm the people we serve,” Villanueva said in a statement.

He said it is high time that the people know how the NTF-ELCAC spends government money, if the task force is “effective” in its mandate and if it is worth to be funded next year.

“Again, we know that the intention behind the NTF-ELCAC is good, but if we allow it to demonize private citizens like Ms. Patreng Non who have encouraged the whole country into a giving frenzy, then it is becoming part of the problem, and not of the solution,” he added.

“Budget season is coming, I will really make sure that we’ll be addressing the budget for the NTF-ELCAC. Maybe, it’s high-time that we really review their budget,” Sen. Nancy Binay told CNN Philippines’ News Night.

“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.

The NTF-ELCAC has an approved ₱19-billion budget for 2021, around ₱16-billion of it was earmarked as incentives for barangays that were cleared of NPA rebels.

In a radio interview, Parlade said he is willing to reach out to senators to discuss issues against the task force.

“Yes, I’d like to reach out to our senators, huwag namang ganyanin nila ang Armed Forces, huwag naman nilang ganyanin ang mga spokesperson,” Parlade said.

Parlade said he is sorry that other senators were offended by his statement when he was only referring to some.  He did not elaborate.  – Rommel F. Lopez