The verbal tussle between some Senators and myself, has escalated over the past week, starting with a simple community pantry in Maguinhawa Street, that netizens brought to the attention of the NTF ELCAC.
I deliberately postponed making comments on that pantry because first, I am convinced it is a very good project that people and organizations can replicate, even teporarily during these hard times under a pandemic.
I was not sure of the background of the organizers and the real agenda of the group. In fact, I was telling the members of the Stratcom Cluster to be cautious with the way we approach this issue as it could be a trap, a bait for them to attack us for red-tagging or red-baiting and make us appear as insensitive to the conditions of the poor communities.
But when photos and videos shared by netizens started becoming clear that dubious groups were exploiting this otherwise noble initiative, agitating people with hate slogans against the government, covertly distributing propaganda leaflets, asking people to sign blank sheets for their advocacies, and using megaphones to amplify their messages, the NTF-ELCAC had to step in a few areas.
Suddenly there was an uproar, especially from middle forces, never mind if the Task Force came in to perform its mandate to counter the anti-government propaganda that was visibly happening.
People have no job, there is little food on the table, ‘well-meaning’ groups came to alleviate their condition, a few posters here and there, and a media group on-call in case the NTF ELCAC or the police would come and take the bait.
On hindsight, now we can say it was indeed a carefully-laid trap.
With a well-prepared media, they were able to package the response of the government as anti-people, fascist, insensitive, uncalled for. With a little manipulation by the print media and the cunning way they play with our words, they were able to project the government and the NTF ELCAC as the villain attacking the Good Samaritan.
Redtagged, profiled, harassed, CHILLING EFFECT…a seemingly well- orchestrated drama concocted by ARMAS (Artista at Manunulat ng Sambayanan). As if in concert all the anti-government forces and personalities, including those from the legislative were quick to jump in. Siempre, trending. Fair game.
But to call us STUPID and IMBECILLIC? And therefore, the NTF ELCAC should be defunded? No, I cannot take that sitting down, especially since they are raising false arguments.
The Senators averred that we red-tagged Ana Patricia Non, Anakpawis, KMU, and some other community pantry organizers, so other people are now afraid of setting up their own.
It doesn’t follow. The last time we check, even after that alleged red-tagging, 400 more pantries have sprouted all over the country, almost all of which are genuine initiative to share food. Why? Precisely because they know that the government clearly support the bayanihan spirit which we have always practiced in the past, without unnecessary publicity and drama.
They are also saying that what we are doing at the NTF ELCAC is shameful and the TF should be disbanded. Sayang lang daw pasweldo sa akin ng NTF ELCAC. Huh?
Where did the senators get this twsited information? So as the media played with our words, the Senators must have made up their minds to the point of moving to defund the NTF ELCAC.
Now this is awry and I said in my interview that IF these Senators would indeed disband or defund the NTF then they must be really STUPID, using exactly the same word Sen Gordon used to describe me as well as USEC Lorrainne Badoy. The following day the Inquirer would come up with this headline – Parlade: Senators stupid if they defund the task force.
Context is important but to some it becomes irrelevant when ego is placed ahead of everything. I used a qualifier, IF. Is that being disrespectful?
This is where this is issue is getting out of hand. Is it syntax? The choice of words? Political correctness? Or Ego? As of this writing 15 Senators have signed the petition to censure me for my “stupid” comment and five for defunding the NTF ELCAC.
I acknowledge that I’m really just trying hard to cope with the demands of this role as spokesperson. I am a product of the public school, from Kinder up to college, and from where I came from communications is the least of its expertise. In Fort Del Pilar what we learned is basic Army English, full of cadet lingo and jargon only the corps understands. So, why am I here with Manila Times and the NTF ELCAC as its spokesperson? Because there is a job to do and somebody has to do it.
In 2010 I was designated as spokesperson of the Army. I was hesitant because of my limited command of English and Pilipino. I had problems with grammar and everything. I’m a Bicolano and our local diction doesn’t help much either.
I took the job, just the same, because no one else would meet the requirement of the commander. He wanted someone who knew him well, his vision for the Army, and is as passionate as he was in the performance of his job. My only consolation was that I was given the latitude to speak from the heart, on the Army’s behalf. In my commander’s own words: I know you, you know me, say what you have to say and that’s going to be my position and that of the Army. It was a good deal.
So, we stood by our position on Morong 38. The Morong 38 were eventually released by Sec De Lima but it never changed the fact that they were NPAs, and not health workers as they alleged.
Came the Basilan carnage, we stood pat on our recommendation that justice should be pursued by suspending the ceasefire in Basilan, in order to get the ASG and MILF criminals responsible for the slaughter of 19 soldiers.
That caused my relief as spokesperson of the Army, with the order issued by no less than President Aquino himself. His message to military commanders then was clear: Stand down, if it is about the MILF.
Under that same policy sometime later, we lost another 44 soldiers from Police Special Action Force during the Mamasapano incident.
Yes, being a spokesperson and speaking up against the whims and caprices of the powers-that-be, takes a lot of risk. Armed with the little Army English that I have, it is really the character that the Army molded in me that gives me the determination to stand bold, yet often lonely, against all odds.