The spokesperson of the government task force against communist rebels wants a debate. His adversaries, on the other hand, are challenging him to file a case.
And so that’s how things now stand in the heated issue of red tagging of government critics as Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Sunday night dared left-leaning leaders to face him in a forum to disprove his claims against Makabayan bloc members. Instead what he got was a counter-challenge to file a suit if he has evidence.
Bayan Muna chairperson Neri Colmenares, a human rights lawyer and activist, on Monday urged Parlade to file a case against him if he has evidence to prove that he and his relatives are affiliated with the communist rebels.
“If he has evidence, then file a case against me. But don’t involve my family. That’s foul. That’s wrong,” Colmenares told the Daily Tribune in a phone interview.
“He already said he can’t file a case because he has no enough evidence (against me),” he added.
Earlier, Parlade, spokesperson for the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict and Commander of the Southern Luzon Command, tagged Colmenares’ relatives — actress Angel Locsin and her sister Ella Colmenares — as affiliated with terrorist groups.
He claimed that he has photos and testimonies from rebel returnees that Ella Colmenares was with them in their underground activities and that she only resurfaced because she got pregnant. The military general dared Locsin and Neri Colmenares to refute that.
“She had a very delicate pregnancy that is why she had to go above ground. I have her comrades as sources,” Parlade claimed in a television interview that approximated a tell-all of how the supposed underground movement operates.
“They can’t even face me in a forum,” Parlade said of the Makabayan bloc, whom he teasingly term as “Kamatayan bloc” referring to the fate of those who strayed into the underground movement.
Parlade’s remarks did not sit well with Colmenares, whose Bayan Muna is among those so-called legal front organizations of the Left. He slammed the general for his views on Locsin, his nephew, who had been among the celebrities advised to lay low on their criticisms of the government.
“Angel may be vocal sometimes, but that’s her advocacy to voice women’s rights. If she thinks the government has not been respectful of women’s rights — her advocacy — it’s not illegal. She shouldn’t be red-tagged. That’s her right,” Colmenares said.
The former Bayan Muna Partylist representative added that one shouldn’t be red-tagged for only being critical of the government, like him who is critical of President Rodrigo Duterte.
“If President Duterte can criticize people, other people can also criticize him. That’s fair,” Colmenares said.
Reacting to the red-tagging issue, Malacañang on Monday told security officials to refrain from accusing individuals as communists or terrorists without evidence.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the Chief Executive wanted the military and police officers to fulfill their tasks privately and in accordance with the law.
“The President has spoken through Secretary Delfin Lorenzana when he warned both police and military authorities to be very careful in red-tagging. In fact, Secretary Lorenzana suggested that there is no need to publicize the names of suspected communists,” Roque said in a televised briefing.
“Just do their job without publicity. Keep quiet. That was the policy set by Secretary Lorenzana which he made for and on behalf of the President,” Roque added.
The Palace official’s remarks came after Parlade was heavily-criticized for discouraging actress Liza Soberano and former Miss Universe Catriona Gray from joining progressive group Gabriela. He claimed that those nominated as partylist members, are allegedly connected with the communist movement.
Parlade accused Locsin’s sister, Ella, of being “part of the underground” claiming that “she’s now again doing legal work with Gabriela… recruiting members for Gabriela.”
Neri responded by saying, “Gabriela is not an NPA (New People’s Army) organization. Don’t red-tag celebrities who are only being critical. The problem is he keeps saying it’s a CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines) front organization when he has no evidence.”
“Even if she’s (a member of) Gabriela or Bayan Muna, these are legal groups. They are doing nothing illegal,” he pointed out.
Parlade also revealed that Colmenares and congressmen from the Makabayan bloc are under surveillance due to their alleged linkage to communist guerrillas.
“That’s (surveillance) is a violation of Section 17 of their anti-terror law. Any police or military officer who conducts surveillance without lawful court order is punishable by 10 years imprisonment,” Colmenares stressed.
He further told Parlade: “Follow the law. Don’t violate our rights by conducting surveillance.”
When Parlade was asked why Colmenares and Makabayan lawmakers were put under surveillance, he said: “It’s not only Neri Colmenares but also other members of the Kamatayan bloc. They are card-bearing members of the Communist Party of the Philippines and I like to repeat that again and again and again.”
Parlade said he retrieved such information from former CPP members who are now working with the government.
Meanwhile, House Minority Leader Joseph Stephens Paduano said Parlade’s statements are “unlawful and incriminatory.
“State surveillance is illegal without a court order. It would harass my colleagues,” he pointed out.
Paduano cited Section 3 (paragraph 1) of the Constitution which stated that the “government and its agents can only do surveillance work upon lawful order of the court.”
Aside from the Anti-Terror Act, Paduano stressed that state surveillance is prohibited even with other laws such as the Anti-Wiretapping Law, Electronic Commerce Act, Cybercrime Prevention Act, Data Privacy Act, Anti-Photo and Video Voyeurism Act.
with MICHELLE R. GUILLANG
and MJ BLANCAFLOR