The Gist


It's a scary time when you get tagged to be an almost-terrorist for supporting women's rights and advocating against violence towards women.

/ 26 October 2020

Recently, Philippine news and social media exploded in the aftermath of Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Southern Luzon Command Chief Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr.’s statement towards young celebrity Liza Soberano regarding her affiliation to Women’s Party Gabriela.

In an official statement published on Facebook, the official urged the actress to withdraw her support for the party-list group, as he claimed that the organization has other intentions in line with that of the New People’s Army, known as the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

This all stemmed from Soberano’s speaking engagement on Gabriela Youth’s webinar titled “Mga Tinig ni Nene: Reclaiming Our Voices on the International Day of the Girl Child,” where she spoke in behalf of all the victims of gender-based violence. Soberano, who recently filed a formal case against her online harassers, spoke of her experiences in her session, and advocated for change.

In response, Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. said this: Let us not red-tag Liza Soberano. It’s not fair to her. She is merely advocating for women’s rights. She has to be protected in the exercise of her rights. Is she an NPA? No. Of course not. Not yet.”

“The choice is yours, Liza. And so with you Catriona. Don’t follow the path of Ka Ella Colmenares (Locsin) took in the underground and NPA Quezon. I am sure Angel Locsin and Neri Colmenares will not tell you this,” he added.

He also went as far as saying that they may “suffer the same fate as Josephine Anne Lapira,” a 22-year old student killed amidst a confrontation between troops and some suspected NPA members in Batangas. Many saw this statement from one of the military’s most powerful leaders as a blatant threat to Soberano, Catriona (Gray), and everyone in cooperation with Gabriela.

One of the accused, actress Angel Locsin, also took it to Instagram to release her own statement responding to these allegations. In it she wrote, “Nakakalungkot po isipin na dito napupunta ang malaking halaga na 19.3B, sa mga paratang na walang basehan at pananakot na red tagging. Sana ibigay na lang po sa ibang departamento ng AFP katulad ng medical reserve corps o pagtaas ng sweldo at pension ng mga sundalo natin. Malaking tulong rin po for purchasing vaccines or other covid response programs. Many of our country men need financial assistance. Mga OFW na nawalan ng trabaho. Madaming mas nangangailangan ng pera ngayon. Sana doon na lang ilaan at sana doon ibuhos ang oras.

I am also appealing to everyone to express support for those being red-tagged like Liza Soberano, Catriona Grey, and all the others just because they are expressing their beliefs peacefully.

By being vocal about my opinions and advocacies, I have always been attacked. Those I could ignore but this is a different level altogether. And so I have to speak up once again because this baseless and reckless red-tagging jeopardizes not only my safety, but also the safety of my sister and our family.”

These statements present some alarming issues as it stirs the public’s general apprehension towards the Anti-Terror Law, and how it may be used to tag individuals and organizations as “terrorist groups” based solely on the officials’ judgments. When, in fact, groups like Gabriela were established only to represent women and fight for their rights — as with any party-list group — and should therefore not be linked to anything close to terrorism.

Claiming that one’s association with it will eventually lead to being a member of the NPA, and ultimately an “enemy of the state,” accuses the organization of malicious intent and wrongdoing. This seems to be the exact intention of Parlade as he stated that he has “nothing to apologize for” as he merely informed Soberano of the “true nature of the organization” with his warning. He also claimed that the actress’ family and lawyer sent him a personal message of thanks for shedding some light into the matter.

On top of that, he also mentioned that he did not actually “red-tag” Soberano, but was merely informing her to be cautious of her affiliations. He shared his disappointment of the public’s construed interpretation of his statement that was “taken out of context.”

Regardless of Parlade’s intention behind his warning to the young actress, the underlying issue here is the act of labelling party groups, and other citizen-led organizations, as a threat to the country’s safety and security. In light of everything happening with activists and political dissenters mysteriously disappearing or being murdered, the statements made are frightening to say the least, as it contradicts the right of democratic citizens to voice out their opinions, and fight for their beliefs on the streets. Hopefully, this particular event will be an isolated case of poor choice of words, and won’t be the start of many more terrorist accusations thrown around in the days to come. Either, way, let our eyes and ears remain open.