Senate urged to defund anti-communist task force
This photo shows Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade, Armed Forces of the Philippines deputy chief of staff for civil military operations.
PCOO, file

Senate urged to defund anti-communist task force

Xave Gregorio (Philstar.com) - October 24, 2020 - 11:32am

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate is being urged to defund the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict after its spokesperson got himself in hot water yet again for issuing a veiled threat against actress Liza Soberano.

Rep. Carlos Zarate and Rep. Ferdinand Gaite from the left-leaning Bayan Muna party-list urged their counterparts in the upper chamber to defund the anti-communist task force and rechannel its funds to healthcare, jobs and aid for workers affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

“We have here a task force that is only spreading lies, disinformation and fake news that would be funded by around P19 billion of taxpayers’ money that could have been allocated to fighting the COVID pandemic, give aid to those left jobless by the pandemic and help our agriculture," Zarate said in a statement on Saturday.

The realignment of P16.44 billion from the anti-communist task force to health and social services is among the proposed amendments of the left-leaning Makabayan bloc, which includes Bayan Muna, to the P4.5-trillion national budget for next year.

The bloc called it a “pork barrel” fund which gives the task force discretion on how to distribute it to barangays.

“It is only Congress who has the power of the purse yet thus we cannot allow such a mere task force dictates where and when to use such a very large unitemized and discretionary lump-sum,” the Makabayan bloc said in its letter to the House Committee on Appropriations.

The House of Representatives passed last week the budget on third and final reading, subject to amendments of a small committee formed to tackle proposed changes to the spending bill.

The lower chamber is set to transmit the 2021 budget to the Senate on October 28.

History of red-tagging

The anti-communist task force has a history of red-tagging individuals and groups it claims to be fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

Support for and even membership in activist groups is not the same as taking up arms against the government.

In its latest move, its spokesperson, Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr., accused women’s party Gabriela of being a front of the underground communist women’s organization Malayang Kilusan ng Bagong Kababaihan.

Parlade also warned Soberano, who spoke at a webinar of Gabriela Youth, that she will “suffer the same fate as Josephine Anne Lapira,” a communist rebel who was killed in an encounter with soldiers, if she does not leave the group.

His comments drew flak from netizens and lawmakers, who raised that red-tagging endangers the lives of those accused as communists.

But Parlade refused to apologize for his comments, telling ANC’s “Headstart” that this is all part of a propaganda war against communist rebels.

Human rights commissioner Gwendolyn Pimentel-Gana, however, said that Parlade’s statement “is a form of suppression and restriction that serves to dissuade those who speak up for their beliefs and advocacies.”

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has since called to convene the anti-communist task force to discuss Parlade’s statement.

In the meantime, he advised Parlade to remain quiet. — with a report from The STAR/Romina Cabrera

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