By Mauro Gia Samonte
National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., vice chairman of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ElCAC), has written a most revealing article on the actual connection of Gabriela party-list to the communist terrorist insurgency of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) in the Filipino tabloid Pwersa.
In the interest of fair journalism as well as of truth, I feel the Esperon revelations deserve a far wider dissemination than that done by a small, albeit brave and fearless, publication.
After citing that the CPP-NPA-NDF had been declared a terrorist organization internationally, Esperon zeroed in on the Gabriela party-list, denouncing it as an adjunct of the Sisonite insurgency complete with telling details.
According to Esperon, it was in March 2019 when the National Intelligence Coordination Agency (NICA) requested the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) to investigate reports that the CPP-NPA was getting financial support from non-government organizations (NGO) through its various front organizations. One such organization, according to the Esperon, was Gabriela party-list, formed in 2003 ostensibly to champion the cause of women and then went on to now occupy two seats in the House of Representatives.
The NTF-Elcac found that the names “Gabriel Women’s Party” as a party-list group, the “General Assembly Binding Women for Reforms, Integrity, Equality, Leadership, and Action, Inc.,” “Gabriela” and “Gabriela, Inc.” have been used interchangeably in the Security and Exchange Commission records.
Says Esperon in his article (translated from the Filipino original): “On May 20, my office received a letter from the Philippine embassy in Belgium. The letter contained a copy of the result of the external financial audit done by Peter Lenoir of Mazars bedrijfsrevisoren CVBA. Mr. Lenoir was contracted by the Belgium government to make a fair investigation of the external financial audit of Gabriela.”
Esperon said he made a personal interpretation of the letter and became certain that those suspect NGOs and party-list groups were indeed related to each other.
“Therefore,” wrote Esperon, “I am undertaking to have the registration of Gabriela Women’s Party canceled for violation of Section 2, Paragraph 5, Article 9 (C) of the 1987 Constitution thus:
“Register, after sufficient publication, political parties, organizations, or coalitions which, in addition to other requirements, must present their platform or program of government; and accredit citizens’ arms of the Commission on Elections. Religious denominations and sects shall not be registered.
Those which seek to achieve their goals through violence or unlawful means, or refuse to uphold and adhere to this Constitution, or which are supported by any foreign government shall likewise be refused registration.
“Financial contributions from foreign governments and their agencies to political parties, organizations, coalitions, or candidates related to elections, constitute interference in national affairs, and, when accepted, shall be an additional ground for the cancellation of their registration with the Commission, in addition to other penalties that may be prescribed by law.”
Moreover, according to the article, Gabriela party-list violated Rule 32, Section 8 (D) of Comelec Rules of Procedures thus:
“Upon verified complaint of any interested party, or motu propio by the Commission, the registration of any political party, coalition of political parties or organization under the party-list system may be canceled after due notice and hearing on the following grounds:
d) The said political party, coalition of political parties or organization has become a religious sect or denomination, is pursuing its goals thru violence or other unlawful means, is refusing to adhere to or uphold the Constitution of the Philippines, or is receiving support from any foreign government…”
Esperon detailed a matrix clearly showing that posts have been held by same personalities in both Gabriela Women’s Party and Gabriela, Inc.
“I also discovered that the names cited above have been rotating for themselves the top posts both for the Gabriela Women’s Party and the Gabriela, Inc.,” Esperon wrote.
He showed in the accompanying table how the same top Gabriela personalities have been rotating among themselves alone the terms as representatives of the two groups in Congress.
On the other hand, Esperon presented the damning evidence of how the Gabriela party-list has been receiving donations for the insurgency through a total of 16 bank accounts.
“Stated here are the foreign government and NGOs which donated financial support to the Gabriela party. Because of this violation, it is clear that this party-list in Congress must be disqualified,” concluded Esperon.
No goodbye for the general
I have had good enough occasions of getting familiar with Ret. Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr., such that if only because of my instincts as a film director, I should give vent to my predilection to bombast and bravura to portray his person in epic proportion, which I believe he deserves.
Yet strange that on the subject, I just am at a loss for words. And on emotions, it is some big void you feel, so deep it defies being expressed. You know, the kind of feeling that because incapable of being said at all, it turns out to be a feeling of nothing for nothing. Some smart psychologist would term it stoicism.
At any rate, an utter failure to lift someone to the pedestal you want him to be on. And failing thus, you simply drop into wordlessness.
But then again, how do you word a general like Parlade?
I wouldn’t dare.
It’s been only some three or so years ago that a common friend, Celso Cainglet, brought General Parlade to lunch with our exclusive group of stubborn Don Quixotes in Mentong Laurel’s now defunct Mama Rosa Restaurant in Barrio Kapitolyo in Pasig City; Celso was Parlade’s professor at the Philippine Military Academy.
That lunch meeting turned out to be a personal milestone for me. For long already, I had been on the lookout for someone to push an idea of finally putting a stop to the half-century old insurgency of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).
I had long decided that the armed struggle for the liberation of the working class had gone passé and that under the trends of the world at present, such liberation cannot but take place only as assimilation into the existing world dominant trend.
In such a reckoning, the armed struggle of the CPP-NPA-NDF becomes a reactionary exercise; true enough, the CPP-NPA-NDF insurgency has been the major factor accounting for the retrogression of the Philippine economy. My idea was for that insurgency to be crushed through a two-pronged attack: all-out war against the leaders and blind followers of the insurgency; and all-out benevolence for those who return to the fold of the law.
“Yang mga NPA, mabubuting tao ‘yan. Hindi ‘yan mag-i-NPA kung masasama ‘yan. Ang masasama ay’ ‘yung mga lider. Kaya dapat pag-ibahin ng pamahalaan ang pagtingin sa mga lider at sa mga follower ng NPA. Sa mga follower, be all-benevolent. Buong pusong akitin sila pabalik sa batas.
(Those NPA are good people. They will not turn NPA if they are bad. Those who are bad are the leaders.)
“So, the government must make a distinction between the leaders and the followers of the NPA. To the followers, be all-benevolent. Attract them back to the fold of the law wholeheartedly.
““Pero sa mga lider, be all-out belligerent. Banatan na ang mga ‘yan. Burahin na. Pulbusin na. (But to the leaders, be all-belligerent. Slam them. Erase them. Pulverize them.)”
This was the gist of a television interview I had with Mentong Laurel, which I had made known to General Parlade when I visited him in his office at the J7 Camp Aguinaldo shortly after our first meeting.
And that was it. From then on, by a matter of course, our paths in countering the communist terrorists always converged.
When the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac) was constituted, General Parlade was designated as its spokesman. From the published dynamics of the task force, it becomes evident that it is an implementation of my own ideated counterinsurgency thrust cited above.
I kept track of the general’s moves.
One time, how courageous of him to have come on his own to a Makabayan bloc forum in Quezon City in which he debunked the lies of propagandists of the CPP-NPA-/NDF against the government.
He said then, he did not come with guns. He was armed with nothing but the truth.
His last assignment was commander of the Southern Luzon AFP Command, which included the Bicolandia.
As of last count, NTF-ELCAC Vice Chairman Hermogenes Esperon Jr. reported that more than 800 barangay (villages) have been freed from NPA influence.
By his own account, General Parlade is enthused at the fact that the NPA is crumbling in Bicol. Together with that enthusiasm is an expressed determination to be still in the thick of the fight even beyond his official service in the AFP.
This, then, must account for my apparent stoic feeling over General Parlade’s retirement. He is not going after all. The turnover ceremony must only be just protocol. The counterinsurgency fight keeps on to the intended end.