By Rose de la Cruz | Published: October 24, 2020
Last August 24, Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade, Jr., Armed Forces Southern Luzon Command chief, got grilled by opposition senators for his views on social media regulation and his previous statements against journalists affecting freedom of expression and press freedom.
For one, he is a brutal defender of the newly-signed Anti-Terrorism Law, the result of which is the lousy practice by men in uniform of red-tagging individuals or groups opposing the sitting administration and its policies citing them for supposed links with the underground left.
Warning Liza Soberano
And on October 22, Parlade warned actress Liza Soberano —who raised her views about women’s rights and human rights in a webinar with women’s group Gabriela, which Parlade insist has links with the Communist Party of the Philippines— to distance herself with the group lest she falls into the same fate of Josephine Anne Lapira, 22, a student of the University of the Philippines in Manila, who was killed by government forces for allegedly working with the rebels, New People’s Army.
Parlade’s statement drew outrage on Thursday from Gabriela and other rights groups and individuals, including Senator Risa Hontiveros who warned him to “be ready” at his next confirmation hearing.
Young Women In A Pandemic
Hontiveros on Thursday criticized Parlade for his statement earlier which was perceived on social media to constitute a threat against the popular actress, who was a guest at a webinar on Tuesday by Gabriela Youth which focused on issues confronting young women amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Parlade’s statement: “Liza Soberano, there’s still a chance to abdicate that group. If you don’t, you will suffer the same fate as Josephine Anne Lapira.”
Added Parlade, spokesperson of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflicts: “It’s a pity she (Lapira) learned about non sense (sic) things like nabbing a firearm, exploitation while already inside the underground. It was too late, she is dead.”
He said that Liza has to be protected.
Catriona Gray, Too
In the same statement, Parlade called on the public “not to Red-tag Liza Soberano,” since she was “not yet” a member of the NPA.
“It’s not fair to her. She is merely supporting advocacy for women’s rights. She has to be protected in the exercise of her rights. Is she an NPA? No, of course not. Not yet,” Parlade said in his statement which was also posted on the Facebook page of the task force.
“Let’s help educate her and the other celebrity targets of Malayang Kilusan ng Bagong Kababaihan, the underground mass organization hiding under Gabriela Women’s Party,” said the general, who had earlier criticized former Miss Universe Catriona Gray for speaking out on certain issues, such as the government’s shutdown of broadcasting network ABS-CBN where Soberano was a leading talent.
Courage, Integrity, Loyalty
Hontiveros said, “We will not forget this. I will remember all that you (Parlade) have done so better be ready to answer for them next time you face the (Commission on Appointments). I will not let this pass.”
“You should not use your power as a military general to scare off and threaten these women. Your threats and harassment are unacceptable [because] any attempts to silence them is in effect allowing the violence, rape and abuses being suffered by many Filipinos,” added the senator, a sitting member of the commission who also heads the Senate committee on women, children, family relations and gender equality.
Hontiveros said Parlade acted “like a lamb” when he attended a recent confirmation hearing.
“I gave you the benefit of the doubt during your promotion hearing because I believed that, just like my late husband Frank, you abide by the motto of the PMA (Philippine Military Academy)— courage, integrity and loyalty.”
Hontiveros urged Soberano and Gray not to be cowed in speaking out on abuses against women saying it is their constitutional right.
“Just keep on standing up for your right to speak, as I and most of the Filipino people are with you. I salute and embrace you,” Hontiveros said.
Angel Locsin, Likewise
Parlade insists that even before the Anti-Terrorism Law was passed, AFP already compiled evidence to prove that Gabriela is part of the CPP-NPA.
He insisted that Gabriela was an “underground” organization of the Communist Party of the Philippines whose “nature … is really violent,” and that Angela “Ella” Colmenares, a sister of actress Angel Locsin, was “really Red.”
Speaking about Colmenares in his statement, Parlade said, “The choice is yours Liza. And so with you Catriona. Don’t follow the path Ka Ella Colmenares … took in the underground and NPA Quezon. I am sure Angel Locsin and (former party list lawmaker) Neri Comenares will not tell you this.”
In her Facebook post on Friday, Colmenares said: “Yes, I believe in the protection of women’s rights and human rights, the same advocacies that Angel and Neri fight for, but so do millions of Filipinos across the country.
“That does not mean that I am a member of the NPA as what is being claimed.
“Practicing our constitutional rights that we are entitled to, expressing our opinions, and having a belief different from the others does not entail that one should be Red-tagged.”
Asked if he would apologize to the actress, Parlade on Friday denied that he is red-tagging actress Liza Soberano and that he has nothing to apologize for, claiming even that the family of Soberano even thanked him.
“What should I apologize [for]? Again, why should I apologize? The family thanked me, Atty. Juanito Lim (Soberano’s lawyer) called me up to say that they are sending the thank you letter and he told me that the family is thankful… why should I apologize?” Parlade told ANC.
Parlade further said he never mentioned that Soberano is a member of any communist groups.
Parlade also underscored that he is not threatening women as he is also advocating for their rights.
“I’m not threatening these women because I also have daughters, I have sisters. So ang dami kong mga kaibigan na mga babae and I support that advocacy to defend women’s rights,” Parlade said.
Gabriela party-list Rep. Arlene Brosas on Thursday accused Parlade of rabidly red-tagging Soberano and other female celebrities and influencers who are taking a stand and speaking out against the “macho-fascism under the Duterte regime.”
Parlade said he believes Soberano is being “exploited” by the Gabriela Women’s Party, which he believes is a front group of communist rebels citing historical records of celebrities becoming rebels, NPAs and this is where they started.
Parlade said it is the responsibility of the government, specifically the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, to inform people about the modus operandi of the Communist Party of the Philippines.”
Brosas, in her statement on Thursday, said Parlade’s appeal to stop red-tagging Soberano is “starkly ironic” as he actually red-tagged her in his same statement.
“By saying that Soberano is ‘not yet an NPA,’ he is maliciously associating the actress with the armed movement when what she did in the youth forum was to only speak up for all the victims of gender-based violence and abuse,” Brosas said.
Parlade said Soberano should be educated about the alleged “hidden violent agenda” of Malayang Kilusan ng Bagong Kababaihan (MAKIBAKA), an alleged underground organization under Gabriela. Lim said Soberano’s expressing her love and respect for women and children has been her personal advocacy.
Liza Not Afraid
Kapamilya actress Soberano said she is not afraid of the statement of Parlade about her participation in an online seminar hosted by left-leaning Gabriela Youth, and will continue to exercise her right to free speech “without fear or restraint from anyone,” her lawyer said Friday.
“Liza is not afraid of this statement from Gen. Parlade. Though I must state that we take note of the general’s advice, unsolicited as it may sound,” Soberano’s legal counsel Atty. Lim said in an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel.
“However, please know that Ms. Soberano will continue to exercise her constitutionally-protected right to free speech and expression without fear or restraint from anyone. I think I have to make that very clear right now,” Lim added.
Lim said he does not sense any fear on Soberano on the military official’s remarks.