Fire Parlade, hold him accountable for his crimes, and abolish the NTF-ELCAC —Karapatan

Human rights watchdog Karapatan welcomed the Senate’s adoption of a committee report recommending the removal of Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. as the spokesperson of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC). Nonetheless, the group also stated that “more than firing the rabid red-tagger Parlade, he must be held accountable for inciting — if not his complicity and direct hand in — brutal human rights violations and war crimes; Parlade himself is a clear reason on why the NTF-ELCAC itself must also be abolished.”

“Removing Parlade is indeed an urgent step now more than ever, and the Senate’s recommendation should be a clear and unequivocal condemnation of Parlade’s antics which have endangered the lives, liberties, and securities of the people he has rabidly red-tagged. We shouldn’t let him continue having a platform for his lies and violent pronouncements — especially when the blood of those killed in the recent Bloody Sunday raids in Southern Tagalog are on his hands,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said.

Nonetheless, Palabay asserted that “the problem, however, isn’t Parlade alone, and the Senate’s recommendation to fire him due to the constitutional overreach of his appointment to the NTF-ELCAC should speak of the fact that his appointment — along with the so-called ‘whole-of-nation’ counterinsurgency framework of the NTF-ELCAC — is an undeniable manifestation of the scheme to militarize the civilian bureaucracy through the task force, which makes the case for the NTF-ELCAC’s abolition of utmost necessity and urgency.”

On Wednesday , March 10, the Senate amended the Senate Committee Report 186, filed last February 22, to include the recommendation to remove Parlade from the NTF-ELCAC since his appointment violated Article 16, Section 5, Paragraph 4 of the 1987 Constitution, which states that “no member of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in active service shall at any time be appointed or designated in any capacity to a civilian position in the government.” Parlade as well as his fellow NTF-ELCAC spokesperson Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy defended his appointment in asserting that the NTF-ELCAC is not a civilian task force.

The Karapatan officer said that “Parlade and Badoy are being caught in their own frothing mouths; that by denying that the NTF-ELCAC is a civilian task force, they have simply given away the reality that the NTF-ELCAC actually subordinates civilian authority to military rule; in short, it’s a virtual military junta where retired and even active military personnel — many of whom are notorious perpetrators of human rights violations and war crimes such as National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. — are rewarded with posts through NTF-ELCAC.”

“Considering Esperon’s position as Duterte’s right hand man in the NTF-ELCAC, his own affirmation of the president’s shoot-to-kill orders against individuals tagged as ‘communists’ and his blatant call to disregard human rights in the course of the government’s counterinsurgency campaign already makes clear that extrajudicial killings, illegal arrests on trumped-up charges, and public vilification of activists and human rights defenders through red-tagging is a State policy through the NTF-ELCAC and not just a matter of Parlade’s public pronouncements alone.  Such a task force that facilitates human rights violations, perpetuates violent rhetoric, and brazenly subverts civilian authority should have no place to go but be abolished,” she ended.