Palace slams suggestions to defund anti-communist task force

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Malacañang on Thursday thumbed down some senators’ push to defund the government’s anti-insurgency task force over alleged red-tagging issue amid the rise of community pantries.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said defunding the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) is “unjustified” since its funds are currently being used to free villages from threats to security and development.

“What I know is the funds of the ELCAC are for projects that will give progress to areas with rebels. So, for me it’s not justified,” he said in a Palace press briefing in Filipino.

Roque said Palace would leave it to NTF-ELCAC officials to perform their duties, but reiterated support for community pantries across the country.

“The position of the President is clear, the position of the DILG (Department of Interior and Local Government) and the PNP (Philippine National Police) is clear – let a thousand community pantries bloom,” he said in Filipino.

Asked if Palace would reprimand NTF ELCAC spokesperson, Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade over his remark against an organizer of a community pantry in Quezon City, Roque said he may arrange for a meeting with Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to discuss the issue.

“Perhaps Secretary Año and I will speak to Secretary Delfin Lorenzana), because that’s the proper chain of command,” he said in Filipino.

He noted that Lorenzana has previously warned Parlade, who is Southern Luzon Command chief, to be more cautious in making statements.

“I think General Parlade reports to Secretary Lorenzana and it’s not a secret that there are times Secretary Lorenzana reprimands General Parlade and tells him to be careful in his declarations,” he added partly in Filipino.

At least six senators want to withdraw funding for the NTF-ELCAC and reallocate its current P19-billion budget to fund assistance to people affected by the pandemic.

Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, however, said it is better to replace “irresponsible” NTF-ELCAC officials instead.

“We should not be hasty in blaming a good program because of irresponsible statements from some officials. Replace the officials instead,” he said, but did not mention any names.

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