CHR: Military officer's red tagging of journalist a possible 'overreach' of anti-terror law

Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 08 2021 05:09 PM

Armed Forces Southern Luzon Command chief Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. of the National Task Force to End Local Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) physically attends the hybrid hearing of the Committee on National Defense and Security, Peace, Unification and Reconciliation on the alleged red-tagging /red-baiting of certain celebrities, personalities, institutions, and organizations Tuesday, December 1, 2020. Joseph Vidal, Senate PRIB

MANILA – The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has expressed concern over the statements of a military general threatening to sue a journalist under the new anti-terror law.

"The Commission on Human Rights continues to note and express concern over the ongoing threats to the country's civic space, particularly the recent red tagging and threat to sue journalist Tetch Torres-Tupas over a report on an alleged torture of Aetas who were said to be members of the New People's Army and a possible overreach of the Anti-Terrorism Act," said CHR spokesperson Atty. Jacqueline Ann de Guia. 

In a series of posts by one Antonio Parlade on Facebook, he criticized Inquirer.net 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.

Parlade, commander of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Southern Luzon Command and also the spokesperson of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF ELCAC), said on Facebook that he can file charges against Tupas for "aiding terrorists by spreading lies." 

The Inquirer 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 also carried the story.

The CHR cited the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights' concerns last year over what appears to be a "pattern of intimidation" against news sources, further aggravated by practices of red tagging and filing of cases against journalists. 

"Since then, the Philippine Government has committed to improve the human rights situation on the ground, yet such practices continue to persist," de Guia said.

The Inquirer condemned Parlade's threat, and expressed alarm over what it said is his "attempt to sow fear, stifle dissent, and curtail (Tupas') right to make truthful and objective reports."

Parlade's threat against Tupas has been formally brought up before the Supreme Court by Former Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and his fellow petitioners against the Anti-Terrorism Act.

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 oral arguments on the Anti-Terrorism Act, which began last week, is set to resume Tuesday afternoon.