A military general known for his advocacy against fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) was cautioned yesterday by no less than National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana not to shoot from the hip.
Lorenzana on Friday advised Southern Luzon Command chief Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. to either back his claims regarding personalities allegedly affiliated with the communist movement or just “do not talk about it.”
“My thoughts on that, if you have no evidence, do not talk about it. Do not talk about it with the media, do not post it on Facebook,” Lorenzana said at the sidelines of the groundbreaking ceremony of Philippine Army (PA)-Philippine Military Academy Alumni Association Inc. building at the PA headquarters in Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City.
Parlade, who is also the concurrent spokesperson of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), hogged the headlines earlier this week after issuing a “warning” on actress Liza Soberano and even Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray to be wary of being affiliated with militant group Gabriela which is suspected of having ties with the CPP and its armed unit, the New People’s Army (NPA).
My thoughts on that, if you have no evidence, do not talk about it.
“Do not just accuse someone of sympathizing with the left or of being a member of the NPA. We should have evidence. Otherwise, just keep quiet. ELCAC is a very good idea but you cannot accuse everybody,” he added.
Because of the controversy, Lorenzana said he will soon summon Parlade and also convene the NTF-ELCAC to iron out the “brouhaha”.
“I am convening a meeting with these people — Gen. Parlade, (National Security Adviser) Gen. (Hermogenes) Esperon, and the other members of the ELCAC. Because of this brouhaha, the issue is getting bigger. I think we should talk about what we should do next,” expressed the Defense chief.
No intention to intrigue
Parlade cautioned the celebrities on Gabriela’s “dual tactics” of luring unsuspecting individuals into joining the leftist movement.
Soberano and Gray, along with actress-philanthropist Angel Locsin, have already called out Parlade for his alleged “red-tagging.”
Parlade had denied tagging Soberano as a communist and even asserted the actress’ family, through her legal counsel, sent him a personal letter “to thank me for the information I shared and helping defend Liza from her bashers.”
Meanwhile, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gen. Gilbert Gapay defended Parlade and insisted the latter was merely “reminding” the public of the deceitful ways of the CPP-NPA and other organizations acting as their legal fronts.
“Gen. Parlade’s statement was just a reminder to all because anybody could be victims. This is true because we have encountered them on many occasions. Sadly, many ended up dead. These are students which were affiliated with the front organizations of the CPP-NPA like Gabriela,” Gapay, who was at the same event, stated.
“There is nothing wrong in voicing out your sentiments or advancing personal advocacies. But once you bear arms and you join the armed component of the CPP-NPA and you fight the government, that’s a different story. We really prohibit the use of violence in advancing changes in the society,” he added.
Leave determination to courts
Senator Panfilo Lacson reiterated that under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), only the courts can declare the CPP-NPA or any group as a terrorist organization.
In a tweet, Lacson has acknowledged Parlade’s dedication in completing and achieving his task.
He, however, noted Parlade’s “flawed interpretation” of the newly-enacted ATA’s provision on the proscription of terrorist groups.
“In spite of his flawed interpretation of proscription as described under the (Anti-Terrorism Act), Lt. Gen. Parlade strikes me as one dedicated officer who knows his mission and wants to accomplish it,” Lacson said.
“That said, only the court can proscribe the CPP-NPA as a terrorist group. I’ll pray for his safety,” he added.
Under Section 26 of ATA, the Department of Justice should apply for the organizations’ proscription before the Court of Appeals “with due notice and opportunity to be heard” before they will be declared as terrorists, outlawed groups of persons, organizations or associations.
The same section provided the filing of urgent prayer for the issuance of a preliminary order of proscription before the Court of Appeals (CA) should be authorized by the ATA upon the recommendation of the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA).
On Wednesday, Parlade warned Soberano that she may share the fate of slain activists for supporting the Gabriela Women’s Party’s youth arm.
Soberano earlier spoke in a forum organized by the women’s group which discussed various problems faced by young women amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
Warning is harassment
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR), meanwhile, expressed its deep concern on the warning of Parlade.
CHR Commissioner Gwendolyn Pimentel-Gana, said such remarks coming from a military general are tantamount to harassment and red-tagging.
“Coming from a high-ranking military official, such statement is a form of suppression and restriction that serves to dissuade those who speak up for their beliefs and advocacies,” Pimentel-Gana said.
The CHR official said all Filipinos, celebrities and everyday folks alike, have the right to express their beliefs and convictions and to participate in activities in line with these beliefs.
She added that the Constitution guarantees our freedom of thought, expression and participation and, as a democratic society, everyone has the freedom to advocate and support a cause, free from any intimidation or harassment.
“The female celebrities aim to advocate for the rights of women, especially victims of abuse—a vulnerable sector that the government is duty-bound to protect,” Pimentel-Gana said.
“Instead of attacking those who seek to empower the voiceless, we are reminding government officials especially the security sector tasked to serve and protect the people to focus on promoting the rights and freedoms enjoyed by the people instead of perpetuating fear and instigating distrust among the populace against those who speak truth to power in defense of the weak and the voiceless,” she added.
with Hananeel Bordey
and Francis T. Wakefield