TWO proud Philippine Military Academy graduates who have spent most of their career in the military and the police force fighting the CPP/NPA are now locking horns with supporters of a government agency ironically tasked to help end the local communist armed conflict and their supporters and something has to be done to stop effort to vilify the two as it won’t do anything good for our dear country.
I’m referring to former PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group director, retired Major General-turned Baguio City Mayor Benjamin ‘Benjie’ Magalong and former PNP chief and senator, now Citizen Panfilo ‘Ping’ Lacson.
It all started when Mayor Magalong this week condemned accusations that he is an accomplice of NPA rebels maintaining that the Baguio City government is protecting youthful activism which does not necessarily mean espousing communist ideology.
In a statement posted on his Facebook account, the retired general called out controversial televangelist Pastor Apollo Quiboloy and other program hosts in the Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI) for making “unfounded accusations” about him being a traitor to the country.
The member of PMA ‘Sandigan’ Class of 1982 who headed the PNP Board of Inquiry that investigated the infamous Mamasapano encounter in Maguindanao that led in the killing of the 44 Gallant SAF commandos during a mission to neutralize Southeast Asia’s most wanted terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir in January 2015, said that the tirades are baseless and needless, as he has been serving the city with loyalty to the Constitution.
“I express grave disappointment and dismay that a certain Lorraine Badoy, a certain ‘Ka Eric’ and Pastor Apollo Carreon Quiboloy are destroying my reputation as a public servant by branding me as a ‘traitor’, ‘a person of no principles’ among other unfounded accusations, during their recent programs on SMNI,” the mayor said.
“I am safeguarding our young constituents from being subjected to unnecessary vilification by striving to ensure that our youth activists — not communists — in Baguio are safe from persecution and harassment. Youthful activism does not necessarily mean espousing a communist ideology,” he added.
The retired general also said that his career as a member of the now-defunct Philippine Constabulary and eventually as part of the PNP will show that he had spent his life battling NPA insurgents in his areas of assignment.
“I have fought the Communist Terror Group in Luzon and Mindanao from the time I graduated as 2nd lieutenant in 1982. My first assignment was in Abra where I was wounded in combat against communist insurgents. From that year to 2005, I staked my life fighting the CPP/NPA, leading my men not from the rear but upfront in numerous operations,” he said.
“To be accused that I have turned my back on my lifelong commitment against the CPP/NPA is a grave insult that sweeps aside my lengthy and loyal service to the Philippines,” he added.
His rant came after Quiboloy, Badoy, and ‘Ka Eric’ or Jeffrey Celiz, a former CPP/NPA member who is now serving as a mouthpiece of ex-communists rebels who have denouncing the communist movement, called out the mayor on air at a program in SMNI, accusing him of turning his back on the country and supporting the communist cause.
Pastor Quiboloy said that the mayor tore down posters claiming that party-list groups Kabataan and Anakbayan are front organizations of the CPP/NPA/NDF. “He is a PMA graduate, but he ordered to stop the activities that are going against the Kabataan party-list, he ordered the removal, and sided with the communists. What can you say about this? He is an accomplice so Mayor Magalong of Baguio City, please condemn this if you are really with the government,” Quiboloy said.
However, Magalong maintained that he has been active in anti-communist insurgency efforts, being part of the regional versions of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac). He also urged his accusers to file cases against him if they believed there was wrongdoing in his actions as a local chief executive.
“I was the Chairman of the Regional Peace and Order Council as well as Vice Chairman of the Cordillera RTF-ELCAC from 2019 to 2022. During my tenure, I have fully supported, without any mental reservation, the programs of the NTF- ELCAC. Through our collective efforts, the ELCAC program continues to succeed in the Cordillera, notably with stronger support from the local communities and better perception from the public,” the Baguio mayor said.
Former Sen. Ping Lacson came to the defense of Magalong, his former officer at the now defunct Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force and said the latter who is already a part of the 5-Man Committee looking into the cases of the 3rd-Level PNP Officers who have tendered their courtesy resignations before PBBM, is being ‘bullied’ by Badoy and Celis.
“It is dangerous to confuse speaking the loudest with speaking the ‘unequivocal’ truth. The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) as conceptualized was an excellent weapon aimed at ending the longest running insurgency in the world,” the ex-lawmaker said.
“Being the sponsor of its budget for a good number of years in my capacity as Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, I had consistently advocated and defended its budget to ensure it had sufficient funding to fulfill its mandate.,” he said.
“This, in spite of pressure from some of my peers in plenary and expectedly from the militant groups outside the halls of Congress – until persistent reports came out from some LGUs that criticized its implementation due to fund misuse and inequitable budget dispersal which favored jurisdictions of the administration’s political allies rather than its true purpose and objective of providing development programs, projects and activities to insurgency-cleared communities,” he added.
Citizen Ping said a case in point is Davao City where former Mayor and now Vice President Sara Duterte declined to receive billions of pesos in NTF-ELCAC appropriations since not a single barangay in the city would be needing the same.
“When I called out the concerned NTF-ELCAC officials about such misuse while performing my legislative duty, then Undersecretary Badoy and Jeffrey Celis aka Ka Eric openly used their media platforms to discredit me – albeit unsuccessfully – by making attacks on my person,” Lacson said in a statement.
“Ex-Usec Badoy need not remind me of the heinous and barbaric crimes perpetrated by the New People’s Army over the past five decades, as I myself, for over 30 years, stood at the forefront of the government’s fight against the atrocities of this organization,” he said.
Never will I forget how I almost suffered the same fate of thousands of men in uniform and civilians when the NPA staged a deadly ambush against me and my team back when I served as the PC provincial commander of Isabela from 1987 to 1988. That ambush claimed the life of one junior officer, PC 2Lt Rosauro Toda, who literally breathed his last while in my arms,” Lacson added.
“Having said all that, these bullying tactics of Lorraine Badoy and Jeffrey Celis, as in the case of Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong, will likely not stop if not checked now. Not only that – such antics will threaten to undo the credible gains made against the insurgency. After Mayor Magalong, who’s next,? the member of PMA ‘Matatag’ Class of 1971 said.
“While I share with them the same advocacy and passion in ending the insurgency problem, I enjoin them to focus on the enemy without harassing those of us who put our lives on the line while serving in the AFP and PNP,” Lacson added.