Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. of the National Task Force to End Local Armed Conflict to stop issuing baseless accusations if he has no evidence to back his claims after he landed in hot water over his alleged red-tagging of actress Liza Soberano.
“My thoughts about that, kung wala kang ebidensya (if you have no evidence) do not talk about it. Huwag kang magpunta sa media, sa Facebook (Do not talk about it in the media, on Facebook),” Lorenzana said during an event at the Philippine Army headquarters in Taguig City.
“Huwag mo sabihin na leftist ‘yan, NPA ‘yan. Dapat may ebidensya tayo, otherwise just keep quiet (Do not just accuse someone of being a leftist, a member of the New People’s Army. We should have an evidence, otherwise just keep quiet),” he added.
Lorenzana, who is a superior of Parlade, said he summoned the controversial military officer to discuss the issue of red-tagging by several members of the NTF-ELCAC.
“ELCAC is a very good idea pero kung minsan, hindi mo naman puwede lahat na… you ano everybody (sometimes, you just cannot (accuse) everybody),” he said.
Lorenzana is a member of the NTF-ELCAC, the anti-communist task force created and chaired by President Duterte to wipe out communist rebellion in the country.
But some members of ELCAC have been accused of red-tagging activists, Left-leaning groups, cause-oriented groups, and some lawmakers who express dissent against the government, among others.
Aside from Parlade, Lorenzana said National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., who serves as the vice chairman of the task force, will also attend the meeting along with other members of the ELCAC.
“Because of this brouhaha na lumalaki (that is getting bigger), I think we should talk kung ano ba talaga ang magandang gawin (what should we really do about it),” he said.
Last Wednesday, Parlade warned Soberano to cut ties with Left-leaning groups or risk suffering the same fate as alleged communist rebels who were killed in military operations. He issued a statement on his personal Facebook account and on the Facebook page of the NTF-ELCAC.
Parlade warned Soberano after the popular actress participated in a youth forum organized by Gabriela Women’s Party to discuss issues being faced by the women and youth amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“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, alias ‘Ella’,” Parlade said, referring to an alleged NPA rebel killed in an operation in Nasugbu, Batangas in 2017.
He then said that Soberano is “not yet” an NPA but claimed that Gabriela’s youth arm, the Malayang Kilusan ng Bagong Kababaihan (Makibaka), has been recruiting celebrities to join their group.
Aside from Soberano, Parlade also issued the same warning to beauty queen Catriona Gray, actress Angel Locsin, and human rights lawyer Neri Colmenares.
The camp of Soberano strongly denounced the red-tagging of the actress in social media and maintained that she is apolitical.
“We denounce in the strongest of terms the red-tagging of our client, Ms. Liza Soberano, in some social media platforms. Expressing her love and respect for women and children is her personal advocacy,” said Juanito Lim Jr., Soberano’s legal counsel.
“Ms. Soberano remains to be apolitical. She does not support nor antagonize any person’s political views. The important point here is respect for each other, a virtue she has conscientiously practiced all her life,” he added.
Even Gabriela also condemned the attack on Soberano: “By saying that Soberano is ‘not yet’ an NPA, Parlade 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 abuses.”
Parlade, in a separate statement, denied he was red-tagging Soberano. He stated he was even “protecting” the actress by keeping her informed of the perils of being associated with Left-leaning groups like Gabriela.
He also claimed that the family of Soberano, 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, Gen. Gilbert Gapay, chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and retired Police Gen. Edgar Aglipay, chairman of the Philippine Military Academy Alumni Association Inc. (PMAAAI), backed Parlade.
Gapay and Aglipay were also present at the Army event.
Gapay said Parlade was just “reminding” the public to be wary of the “agenda” of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its front organizations.
“Itong statement ni Gen. Parlade is a reminder to all kasi anybody could be victims,” he said. “Totoo naman kasi ito dahil (This is true because) we have encountered (them) on many occassions, sadly ‘yong iba namatay pa (otheres ended up dead). These are students which are affiliated with the front organizations of the CPP-NPA like Gabriela,” he added.
The military chief said there is “nothing wrong” with voicing out one’s sentiments or advancing personal advocacies, like what Soberano did. “But once you bear arms and you join the armed component of the CPP-NPA, and you fight the government, iba na ‘yon (that’s different). We really prohibit the armed… the use of violence in advancing changes in the society,” Gapay said.
Aglipay said that Parlade’s remarks were “facts” and an “advice” to Soberano to choose her path wisely. “First, his statement is a fact. Second, what he’s saying or telling Miss Soberano is an advice. We hope Miss Soberano will take the advice, and together with other advice… and I think she is old enough to decide for herself what is good for God, country, and people,” he said.