Senators call out Parlade on issue of red-tagging

Senators called out Lieutenant General Antonio Parlade Jr. over his much-criticized warning on actress Liza Soberano and other personalities for their engagement with the Gabriela Women's Party.

General Antonio Parlade Jr. (PCOO / MANILA BULLETIN)

During the Senate defense committee's hearing on the alleged red-tagging of personalities and groups by military officials, Parlade, spokesperson of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) was quizzed about his statements.

Senators observed that Parlade appeared to have threatened Soberano in telling her that she "will suffer the same fate" as Josephine Lapira, a student activist killed in an encounter between government troops and communist rebels.

Soberano spoke about harassment in an online forum organized by the Gabriela Youth. Aside from her, Parlade also dragged actress Angel Locsin and her sister Ella Colmenares, as well as Ms. Universe 2018 Catriona Gray, who have vocally advocated for women's rights.

"What did Liza Soberano say that might put her in danger or in jeopardy? Anong sinabi niya na pwedeng patayin din siya katulad ng ibang activitist. (What did she say that made you tell her that she could end up killed like other activists)?" Senator Grace Poe asked Parlade, saying Soberano might just be expressing her support for women and children when she attended the forum.

Parlade replied: "In fairness ma'am, she (Soberano) said nothing about being threatened or being in danger for speaking in that forum, but it's the netizens who were actually tagging her as  communist, as a terrorist, that is why they are asking the supporters to boycott her programs," the military official said, reiterating that Soberano's lawyer "thanked" him for his warning.

Later in the hearing, Sen. Panfilo Lacson also asked Parlade on his need to mention Lapira's case to Soberano.

Parlade, in response, said he needed to cite examples "to make them realize that the threat is real".

The general maintained that his statements were not a threat to Soberano, and that he was being "emphatic" in reminding the actress about the "real nature" of the Gabriela Youth, saying that many of its members "end up dead" because they joined the underground.

But Poe said Parlade could have just issued a general statement carefully advising the actress or the netizens that the difference of views and advocacies does not equate to being a terrorist. 

Sen. Francis Pangilinan also manifested that while he supports the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in its pursuit against threats to national security, their red tagging or linking of personalities to radical groups "and what appears initially to be a threat to their security, is a cause of concern."

Pangilinan recalled that it was also Parlade who claimed in 2018 that the Liberal Party, which he leads, was part of the alleged "Red October" plot to oust President Duterte -- a claim denied by the AFP leadership then.

"We have to be very careful, the AFP as an institution is a professional organization. We have to be very careful with the words that we pronounce, being spokesperson of this NTF -ELCAC, this task force, carries a lot of weight," he added.

Members of the NTF-ELCAC stood by Parlade's statements, saying it was "sanctioned" by the task force and that his claims were "supported by evidence."