Carpio cites Parlade’s threat to sue journalist under anti-terror law in SC pleading

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 06 2021 12:57 PM | Updated as of Feb 06 2021 10:22 PM

Carpio group says threat made possible because of anti-terror law

MANILA - Former Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and his fellow petitioners against the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 has taken the cudgels for an journalist who a military general has threatened to sue under the new anti-terror measure.

In a manifestation filed Friday, Carpio's group called the attention of the high court to a series of posts by one Antonio Parlade on Facebook, which criticized reporter Tetch Torres-Tupas over an allegedly “fake” news report about two Aetas charged with terrorism who claimed they were tortured by soldiers in Zambales.

The report was based on a petition-in-intervention filed by Japer Gurung and Junior Ramos before the Supreme Court seeking to join the petitions challenging the anti-terror measure, claiming they suffered direct injury because of the implementation of the new law.

Other media organizations, including ABS-CBN News, also carried the story.

Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. is the commander of AFP’s Southern Luzon Command and also the spokesperson of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF ELCAC). 

In the post, Parlade branded Tupas’ report as “sloppy” and called her a “propagandista” (propagandist).

Commenting on his own post, Parlade suggested Tupas was “aiding the terrorists by spreading lies.”

In another post, he accused Tupas of relying on Human Rights Watch and media organization Kodao, who he accused of being propaganda machines of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

In subsequent posts, Parlade warned Tupas he won’t stop until she answers his questions and even warned that it would be held accountable along with the reporter.

“These posts are clear threats against Ms. Tupas and the Philippine Daily Inquirer, both members of the Free Press protected by Section 4 of the Bill of Rights,” Carpio's group said in its 4-page filing.

“They threaten criminal prosecution for a crime punishable of up to life imprisonment against Ms. Tupas or any journalist who publishes any news article that may be perceived as ‘fake’ or ‘false’ by the military. Such direct threats engender fear that chills journalists or even citizens from exercising their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of the press. As held in one case, ‘[t]he threat of sanctions may deter… as potently as the actual application of sanction,’” it added.

Parlade’s posts gave the Carpio group added ammunition to question the anti-terror law, which they are challenging before the high court.

Carpio, along with former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales and several legal luminaries from the University of the Philippines College of Law, were the 12th group to question the law.

“[T]he threats’ obvious invasion of protected expressive rights is possible only because the language of the ATA is vague and overbroad, casting a wide net of possibilities,” they said.

Carpio and his fellow petitioners had previously asked the Supreme Court to look into an earlier Facebook post by Parlade red-tagging petitioners against the Anti-Terrorism Act, warning, “blood debts will be settled.”

Calling the post a clear threat designed to intimidate, the Carpio group asked the high court to require the Office of the Solicitor General to explain, in writing, if the post was an “official communication from the Government or a public officer thereof including details regarding the source, circumstances behind and, intent of the Post.”

The Supreme Court has given the OSG 10 days to explain.

Former Solicitor General Jose Anselmo Cadiz, counsel for the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, one of the petitioners against the new law, raised Parlade’s threat against Anti-Terrorism Act petitioners in oral arguments last Tuesday, during Associate Justice Rosmari Carandang’s interpellation. 

Several groups have come to Tupas’ defense, including the Justice and Court Reporters Association, where she is a member.

“Had Parlade done the basic diligence of reading the report, he would have known that Tupas based her article on a petition filed at the Supreme Court,” JUCRA said in a statement.

“Had Parlade also done his research and listened to the oral arguments, he would have known that posts like these are what petitioners claim as evidence of a credible threat of prosecution – threat that can warrant a judicial review of the law he seeks to protect and promote,” it added, demanding an apology from the general.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines called Parlade’s posts threats not only to those questioning the ATA but also to journalists covering it.

Rights group alliance KARAPATAN said the incident shows the true intent of the ATA, which, it said, is to clamp down on freedoms and threaten anyone that stands in the way.

The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, for its part, pointed out that Parlade’s posts only reinforced criticisms against the ATA. Other groups have called for Parlade’s resignation.

A defiant Parlade quickly rejected JUCRA’s demand for an apology.

“Inquirer did not even bother to check again with AFP to get their side. Now you want me to apologize after calling your attention to this unfair report? Shame on you Tetch Tupas. Shame on all of you who continue to peddle lies,” he said.

AFP spokesperson Major General Edgard Arevalo has denied the allegations of the 2 Aetas, saying they “failed to prove their accusations.”

“The act that our soldiers are accused of is a serious allegation that is neither a policy nor a practice. As a matter of fact, AFP regulations mandate that we respect human rights and abide by the Law of Armed Conflict,” he said.

Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, during last Tuesday’s oral arguments, raised the incident involving the Aetas as a possible actual case during his interpellation, where he asked if the high court should wait for an actual case before it decides to examine the constitutionality of the Anti-Terrorism Act.

Supreme Court magistrates are expected to meet on Tuesday morning for their weekly en banc session, where they could tackle the new motion filed by Carpio's group.

The oral arguments on the Anti-Terrorism Act, meanwhile, is set to resume Tuesday afternoon.