MANILA — The military official who warned actress Liza Soberano and Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray about their ties with a women's rights group said Thursday that his statement was not a form of intimidation and described the celebrities’ advocacies for women's rights as valid.
Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr., an official of the government's National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), said he was in fact explaining that Soberano is not a member of the New Peoples’ Army (NPA), after the actress was allegedly red-tagged on social media.
“That's not intimidation. In fact, we're just telling you what we know... so these people will be warned,” Parlade said in an interview on TeleRadyo.
“Ako, may mga kapatid akong babae, may mga anak ako na babae, at nanay natin… babae. So ‘yong ganoong advocacy, welcome sa atin yun. But ‘yung di naiintindihan ni Liza ay yung Gabriela… ang underground nature noong Gabriela,” he added.
(I have siblings who are women, my mother and my daughters are women. Those kinds of advocacies are welcome. But Liza does not understand the underground nature of Gabriela.)
"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 @ELLA, former Deputy Secretary General of Gabriela Youth of UP, Manila and defender of women's rights, even against sexual predators amongst her comrades in the NPA unit she joined which is clearly stated in her handwritten letter addressed to a certain @EMIL... The choice is yours Liza. And so with you Catriona," Parlade said in a statement posted Wednesday on the Facebook page of the NTF-ELCAC.
Among those who admonished Parlade is Sen. Risa Hontiveros, an advocate for women's rights.
Parlade claimed he was just concerned for Soberano.
“Bina-bash siya ng mga tao na NPA daw siya, i-boycott daw mga programa niya… Suddenly, si Liza yung inaatake ng mga netizen. Apparently, ‘di naintindihan ng mga netizen na yung advocacy ng mga ganyang defending women's rights, allowed yan. ‘Yong activism, welcome yan,” he said.
(She was being bashed because she was accused she is an NPA member. Some said people should boycott her shows. She was being attacked by the netizens. What netizens don’t know is the fact that defending women’s rights is allowed. Activism itself is welcome.)
His point on the controversial Facebook post, the official explained, was to prevent the two celebrities from being affiliated with what he described as “underground groups”, and for some netizens to stop red tagging Soberano.
“There's nothing wrong with being leftist. What we are after are being extreme leftists,” he said.
Parlade claimed he received a call from Soberano's legal counsel, telling him the family of the actress sent him a 'Thank You' letter for his advice.
"Si Liza Soberano ay nagwo-worry na, kasi hindi niya alam kung ano ang nangyari, 'ano ba ang napasok ko?'. So that's the perspective now of the family and the legal adviser of Liza Soberano. They are thankful," the military official said.
There is no immediate information from the camp of the actress confirming Parlade's statement.
Officials, netizens defends Soberano
Earlier in the day, Soberano’s legal counsel, Jun Lim, denounced the red-tagging on social media, saying the actress remains apolitical.
"Ms. Soberano remains to be apolitical. She does not support nor antagonize any person’s political views. The important point here is respect for others," Lim said in a statement.
Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas slammed Parlade for red-tagging and "mansplaining" the actress even after he supposedly urged the public not to do so.
Hontiveros said she will not let the official’s statements pass.
“Huwag mong gamitin ang kapangyarihan mo bilang heneral upang takutin at pagbantaan ang mga kababaihang ito. Your threats and harassment are unacceptable. By silencing them, pinapalampas mo ang karahasan, panggagahasa at pangaabuso na nararansan ng napakaraming Pilipino,” Hontiveros said.
(Don’t use your power as a general to scare and threaten these women… By silencing them, you are tolerating violence, rape and abuse being experienced by many Filipinos.)
“We will not forget this. Tatandaan ko ang lahat ng mga ito at paghandaan mo ang susunod natin paghaharap sa Comission on Appointments. Hindi ko ito kayang palampasin,” she said.
(I will remember these and you should be prepared for our next meeting at the Commission on Appointments.)
Sen. Kiko Pangilinan said the official’s threats were “uncalled for.”
"Ano ba ‘yan? Nakipagkwentuhan lang si Liza, binantaan na ng kamatayan. Siya na nga ang binastos at binantaan ng rape, tatakutin pa? These threatening statements are uncalled for and unprofessional and should be called out," Pangilinan said.
(What was that? Liza only chatted with some people and then she was already threatened? She was already disrespected and threatened with rape.)
Parlade said some members of Gabriela Youth, the organization that organized a webinar last week where Soberano delivered a speech, are not just activists, but are actually involved in encounters with the military.
He said some were found to be with slain NPA rebels, and others were "incriminated by former rebels."
Asked if personalities and groups they have suspected to be part of the NPA are part of a supposed official list released either by the Armed Forces of the Philippines or any court, Parlade said, "We just wait because the IRR, implementing rules and regulation, of the anti-terror law just came out."
"Ang procedure kasi diyan, you have to be designated first as a terrorist... Ang susunod diyan, proscription. Sa designation, it's merely an executive act... The anti-terror council ang magsu-submit ng listahan na 'yan - mga pangalan ng tao, at mga pangalan ng organizations," he explained.
"And then, ang proscription process, dadaan yan dun sa judiciary. Sila ang magde-determine upon probable cause, that these people and organizations are indeed terrorists. Hindi kami yun; wala pa tayo dun... But we are on that process already," he continued.
Asked if the supposed official list will be preempted by his pronouncements, Parlade said, "No... Hinintayin ba natin na madisgrasya pa itong mga taong ito? No. Kaya nga ang sinasabi namin, now is the time to campaign, itong information campaign on the anti-terror law. Ipaliwanag natin sa taumbayan na malinaw na ngayon na recruitment or being part of this organization, you can be liable and you can be imprisoned for life. Nakalagay yan doon sa ating batas."
"So, unfair dito sa mga taong ito nabibiktima nila, na, suddenly, 'O, bakit ako nápasok dito? Ba't ako kinulong? Ako'y ano lang, aktibista lang.' Hindi, hindi ka aktibista, kasi ang pinag-aralan n'yo dun sa organisasyon n'yo ay paano gumawa ng bomba, paano gumawa ng armas, paano pumatay ng sundalo, mag-sparrow. That's not activism," he continued.
Amid the spate of red-tagging reports a few months back, the Commission on Human Rights, in a statement in May, reminded the government that the repeal of the Anti-Subversion Law in 1992 also meant that being part of the Communist Party of the Philippines is no longer illegal.
"The challenge before those who accuse is to prove allegations of any illegal act before fair and competent courts," CHR spokesperson Atty. Jacqueline Ann de Guia had said.