MANILA— A military official on Tuesday denied red-tagging 3 celebrities who he had repeatedly sparred with online over their alleged involvement or support for communist-linked organizations.
In a hearing on the controversial red-tagging of celebrities, Senate Committee on National Defense and Security chair Sen. Panfilo Lacson asked Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. if he had linked Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray, and Kapamilya actresses Liza Soberano and Angel Locsin with the communist movement.
"No, your honor. I did not," Parlade, spokesperson of the government's National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).
The question was raised as the Senate panel began looking into how several celebrities were being linked to the communist insurgency after speaking about women empowerment and Filipinos' rights in different platforms and fora.
Parlade earlier accused Ella Colmenares, Locsin's sister, of being "part of the underground" and claimed she "operated in Quezon especially in Polillo Island."
In a social media post last month, the military official also called on Soberano and Gray to cut their ties with Gabriela, a group pushing for women's rights in the Philippines, saying the organization is one of the many fronts of the communist movement.
In the same post, Parlade also warned Soberano that she may end up dead like another woman who allegedly joined the Communist Party of the Philippines.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros slammed Parlade's remarks against the female celebrities, saying women should not be the target of "veiled threats."
"Nagpakita ng kamulatan, critical thingking at pakikipagkapwa tao sina Liza Soberano, Angel Locsin at Catriona Gray. Ano ang sinusukli sa kanila? Red-tagging at may kasama pang death threat," she said.
(Liza Soberano, Angel Locsin and Catriona Gray showed awareness, critical thinking and empathized with others. What do they get in return? Red-tagging with death threats.)
"It's also caused a chilling effect on citizens who want to weigh in on national issues and hold government to account," she said.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Interior Secretary Eduardo Año thanked senators for inviting them to the hearing saying it was an opportunity for them to "expose the true color of these people who are trying to destroy our democracy."
But Lacson, a former Philippine National Police chief, warned the military should not confusingly label activists as terrorists.
"When no distinction is made between a terrorist and an activist, a reformist and a subversive, we risk putting everyone under a clout of suspicion and our society in a constant state of insecurity," Lacson said.
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier told police and military members to "keep quiet" instead of red-tagging celebrities online, according to Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque.