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AFP: Parlade 'above us', deserves 'due process' in red-tagging probe

The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), including Lieutenant General Antonio Parlade Jr, is above the military.

This was the defense of Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Lieutenant General Cirilito Sobejana when asked why the military is beginning its probe by seeking to ask whether Parlade's red-tagging remarks earned the blessing of the NTF-ELCAC.

"Sana maintindihan ng ating mga kababayan na 'yung NTF-ELCAC ay mas mataas kaysa Armed Forces. Component lamang ang Armed Forces ng NTF-ELCAC. Ngayon, si General Parlade is designated as spokesperson, so we have to respect kung anuman ang napag-usapan niya diyan. Kaya minabuti ko pang papuntahin 'yung provost marshal para alamin," Sobejana said in an online press briefing on Wednesday, February 10.

(I hope the people understand that the NTF-ELCAC is above the Armed Forces. The AFP is only a component of the NTF-ELCAC. Now, General Parlade is designated as spokesperson, so we have to respect whatever he has said there. So, I took it upon myself to send the provost marshal to find out what's happening.)

Parlade is under probe for red-tagging Inquirer.net reporter Tetch Torres-Tupas without any basis.

Task forces are coordinating bodies that report directly to the President. However, Parlade is still a soldier that reports directly to Sobejana. Sobejana acknowledged this but still insisted on first speaking with the NTF-ELCAC.

"In doing our investigation, we have to give due process. There's a process there. We also do our job following the rule of law," Sobejana said in a mix of English and Filipino.

No military rule or law says that the military must first go through a task force before holding its soldier accountable.

The AFP's 2014-issued handbook on social media use for the Philippine Army bans soldiers from engaging in political discussions and posting rants and gripes on social media – something that Parlade has long engaged in prior to the probe.

The handbook said that soldiers who violate these rules can even be court-martialed.

The 7-year-old policy was pointed out to Sobejana during the briefing. In response, he called for patience.

"That's part of the process. Let's wait a bit. What I am sure of is that we will not neglect this, we will not stop here. Any violation of our policies should be dealt with accordingly. Just trust us," Sobejana said. – Rappler.com

Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.

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