When the now famous “community pantries” mushroomed in Metro Manila weeks ago, the spokespersons of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) publicly expressed the suspicion of their agency that some of those pantries may have been infiltrated by the leftists.
That view expressed by two NTF-ELCAC spokespersons, namely, Presidential Communications Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy and Philippine Army Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr., was apparently instigated after known leftist groups began appearing on the television news to heckle the government. The leftists’ theory was that people resorted to community pantries because the government is incapable of providing for those adversely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
TV news footage indicated that the leftists gathered at several community pantry sites, and they were waving the usual flags and placards typical of left-leaning, anti-government propaganda.
Several senators led by Franklin Drilon saw an opportunity for free publicity in the brewing conflict between the NTF-ELCAC and the leftists. The senators threatened to reduce the 2022 budget of the NTF-ELCAC to a ridiculous “zero.”
Reacting to Drilon’s remark, General Parlade called the senators behind the move to reduce the 2022 budget of the NTF-ELCAC “stupid.”
Furious at Parlade’s statement, the senators demanded that the general be censured for his disrespect to the “representatives of the people.” They also demanded Parlade’s ouster.
The general, however, stood his ground. He said the Senate has no disciplinary jurisdiction over him.
Parlade’s supporters added that many senators do not deserve to attach the title “honorable” to their names.
To avoid aggravating the already tense situation, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. issued a gag order to both Esperon and Badoy.
So far, the leftists are taking advantage of the situation by repeatedly calling public attention to what they claim is the military’s infiltration of the community pantries.
General Parlade is right. The Senate has no disciplinary jurisdiction over him. Only the military establishment has that authority.
On the other hand, the general’s description of the senators who want to reduce the 2022 budget of the NTF-ELCAC as “stupid” must be viewed in the proper context.
Senators should be reminded that they are public officials and as such, they should be tolerant of public criticism, including criticism bordering on the unfair. Nobody forced them to become “representatives of the people.” Since they willingly sought a part of public power, they should face public scrutiny and criticism.
It may be argued that the adjective “stupid” is too strong a word to describe the senators, but wasn’t the senators’ threat to reduce the 2022 NTF-ELCAC budget to a ridiculous “zero” an irresponsible statement?
To all intents and purposes, that threat was a knee-jerk reaction, because the senators concerned did not even bother to conduct a thorough investigation before making the threat. Have they forgotten that communism remains a threat to the nation’s security and economy?
That threat was a brazen attempt to tell everyone, the military establishment in particular, that senators wield immense power. It is also outright bullying.
The Senate may be powerful, but under the Constitution, the President of the Philippines is the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and its derivative agencies.
Instead of getting vindictive for having been called “stupid” in public, the senators should first take a look at themselves in the mirror. They will discover that from the way they have comported themselves through the decades, they actually deserve intense public contempt.
Their huge discretionary funds, bottomless expense accounts, and extraordinary privileges are enough to entice public outrage. In 2019 alone, Senator Ralph Recto spent P113.48 million in public funds — the biggest spender among his colleagues.
The biggest justification for the public contempt for senators is their shameless refusal to enact legislation defining and prohibiting political dynasties. It’s been 34 years since the Constitution mandated Congress to enact a law banning political dynasties, and Congress, which includes the Senate, has conveniently ignored that mandate.
Before the senators move against General Parlade, they should look at the mirror first and, hopefully, see the hypocrisy of their protestations against being described as “stupid.”
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