Press Release
April 26, 2021

ANC @ANC Matters of Fact Interview of Sen. Win Gatchalian with Christian Esguerra on defunding NTF-ELCAC

Q: I'm curious about your reaction when you heard that statement coming from Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade, Jr., a man in uniform, calling the criticism coming from certain senators, including yourself, of the red baiting of community pantries, basically, he used the term stupid.

SEN WIN: That's very disappointing, Christian considering that we both work for the same government, we both work for the same people, and we both want the best for our country. And just because we have a difference of opinion, we will start degrading one another. The problem is Parlade. That's why all of these things are now becoming a hot topic. The community pantries is an inspiration to many, especially to ordinary Filipinos. Even here in Valenzuela, in our city, we now have about 30 community pantries, all launched by ordinary Filipinos, and none of them, which a lot of them are personal friends of mine, 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.

Q: The gag order issued by Secretary Esperon on Gen. Parlade and Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy, is that enough? Or do you still believe that they should be or do you believe that they should be removed or that that the NTF-ELCAC should be abolish?

SEN. WIN: First of all, Christian, I would like to thank General Esperon for recognizing that the statements made by General Parlade were not helpful and the gag orders is a step forward. However, there are still merit to look into the funding of the NTF and the anti-insurgency program. This is a big amount, Christian. It's not small it's something's about 16 billion. 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.

Q: Do you think he should stay?

SEN WIN: I think, in my personal opinion, he should go back to his original post in our constitution Article 16 says that uniformed military personnel cannot hold civilian post. Even before, in the committee report of Senator Lacson, he already made the recommendation, few months ago, that Gen. Parlade cannot act as a spokesperson of a civilian office because he is still active in the military. So that alone is a violation, and should be corrected immediately.

Q: How about Undersecretary Badoy?

SEN. WIN: Undersecretary Badoy should also be very careful with her statements because she stands to represent an agency who's given a huge amount of money to fight the insurgency, so we cannot use that sum of money to hear lies and abuse people or red tag people without any basis.

Q: Because one of the statements were made by Undersecretary Badoy pertain to the demand for the organizer of the Maginhawa Community pantry to basically account for some of the financial contributions that she had received? But you're talking here of a private individual, we're not talking here of a government official, but even then, people can always account for whatever donations that they are receiving. But how about the budget that was allocated for the NTF-ELCAC, you said that there's still a need to review? Is that correct? Or to reallocate some of the budget that was given to that particular task force? But have you actually seen any particular accounting of how that budget is being spent? P19 billion and P20 million for each barangay that is cleared of the communist insurgency?

SEN. WIN: Christian, Usec. Badoy has no business, and no right to demand on the accountability in so far as a community pantry is concerned, whether it's a community pantry is known or the community pantries in Venezuela or others. This is a purely private matter. Let them be accountable to their donors, and that is happening because the donors properly monitor what's happening, and the donors will not give to people they don't know. So let them operate on its own. Government cannot step in to this manner because it's none of our business. It's a private matter.

Q: So in this case, despite the statements coming from the two officials of the NTF-ELCAC and despite the gag order specific to what they have been saying regarding community pantries, these somehow get the sense that, despite everything that they had said prior to this controversy regarding community pantries that somehow there was this preference or support on the part of the leadership to keep them because they were still serving good purpose for the NTF-ELCAC, meaning perhaps we're seeing this in movies right, the good cop, bad cop scenario, and they are, those are playing bad cop and they're serving a particular purpose for this insurgency campaign by the government.

SEN. WIN: I don't want to venture into that yet, Christian. I am not privy to the inner workings of NTF. But one fact remains, P16 billion in terms of anti-insurgency program was allocated to the NTF-ELCAC and that's taxpayers money, and they have to be accountable. Number one, how do they appropriate those sums of money, and number two, who are making the decisions. This is also, Christian, I have to emphasize, this is also a question of trust. Trust among those who are implementing the program. And if you have the likes of General Parlade herding lies and accusations without any basis. You will now raise the issue of trust, and question the people who are implementing the program because the program again, it's not a small program and this program is meant to help alleviate the barangays who are now clear of insurgency.

Q: What was your stand before, during the budget deliberations, were you in favor of allocating that much budget to the NTF-ELCAC and were you in favor of that NTF-ELCAC in the first place?

SEN. WIN: Yes, Christian I voted in favor of that program, the anti-insurgency program, precisely because my view is we need to bring peace to the entire country. And there are a lot of barangays which are being disturbed by terrorist, by insurgency and we cannot bring true progress to the countryside without peace. That's why I voted in favor because this is a vehicle to bring progress and to bring peace to those 800 barangays targeted by the anti-insurgency program.

Q: Now with all the red-baiting that we have been seeing, with the pronouncements or accusations coming from some of the officials of NTF-ELCAC, do you regret supporting it?

SEN. WIN: I have now my doubts. Because, like I said, what's also important here are the people implementing the program. The people spending 16 billion, allocating the 16 billion is one action. The next action is looking at those who are implementing, but if you are now seeing that people are using this sums of money to baselessly accuse other people, red tagging without evidence, maligning the credibility of organizers, now this will raise a lot of doubts whether the people there are in fact qualified to spend 16 billion.

Q: You're talking of a huge amount allocated NTF, but if you really want to provide development to the communities, the barangays, I think this is also part of the debate during the budget deliberations, why not just allocate that big amount to the different agencies that are actually, by law, in position to implement those projects, to make the communist insurgency in the countryside irrelevant because development is already coming to the communities?

SEN. WIN: That is possible, Christian. There are already existing agencies like for example, under insurgency programming, you have livelihood, which is now being implemented by the DSWD. You have infrastructure which is now being implemented by DPWH. But let me emphasize, Christian that enemy is the insurgents. The enemy are the terrorist and we need to move forward together in order to bring progress to the countryside and all of this stemmed from baseless accusations and irresponsible statements. That should be corrected because that is painting the image and the management of the NTF and its programs.

Q: Finally, Senator Gatchalian, I'd like you to respond to this observation by a good number of people regarding the criticism that we all have been hearing now from some senators, including yourself, that somehow you're getting this courage now to stand up to the certain policies by the administration, supposedly because by next year it's election, and somehow there's need to disassociate to the administration over policies that may be deemed divisive and controversial.

SEN WIN: No, I don't share the same view, Christian because it's part of our job to make sure that agencies are accountable, no matter what political cycle it is. It's part of our responsibility to make sure that the people assigned to that office and assigned to implement that program should be qualified and should be trustworthy, especially if you are assigned to dispense huge amounts of money, and to bring to the countryside. So it's part of our ongoing responsibility, in my view, it's important to make sure that we exercise oversight over all programs and over all offices.

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