MANILA, Philippines – A Philippine Army general known for his hardline stance against communist rebels assumed command of all military forces in Southern Luzon on Friday, January 17.
Major General Antonio Parlade Jr told Rappler he formally took over as chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Southern Luzon Command (Solcom) in a ceremony at Camp Nakar in Lucena City, Quezon. He replaced Lieutenant General Gilbert Gapay, who was appointed Army chief in early December 2019
Parlade is a member of the Philippine Military Academy’s “Hinirang” class of 1987.
His new command covers Calabarzon, the Bicol Region, and the island provinces of Mindoro, Marinduque, and Romblon. The area is one of the remaining bailiwicks of the communist New People's Army (NPA).
Before being appointed Solcom chief, Parlade was the AFP deputy chief of staff for civil-military-operations, J7.
He is a key figure in the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), which operates the government’s “localized peace talks” with individual fronts of the NPA and its militias. It offers guerrillas and their supporters cash and other incentives to surrender and return to civilian life, while the military and police continue offensives.
Parlade made headlines in late November 2019 when he showed up uninvited at a forum of progressive groups led by the Movement Against Tyranny and National Union of Peoples' Lawyers. The groups were airing concerns about so-called red-tagging by the military, or its branding of progressive groups as fronts for guerrillas.
The groups’ leaders were offended by Parlade’s presence and asked him to leave. Parlade later said that "he came in good faith to share our side and answer queries."
In February 2019, Parlade joined a delegation from the Presidential Communications Operations Office on a “truth caravan” to several capitals in Europe, where they presented the Duterte administration’s version of the war on drugs, its campaign against the opposition, and operations to quell the communist rebellion.
The delegation then asked the European Union and the Belgian government to cut funding for 30 groups that it said were the rebels' fronts.
The military is under pressure from President Rodrigo Duterte to end the communist rebellion before he steps down in June 2022. The government is trying to revive negotiations with the rebels' political arm, the National Democratic Front, but security officials say military offensives against communist guerrillas will continue unless Duterte orders a halt.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier said peace talks would not necessarily require a ceasefire. – Rappler.com
JC Gotinga often reports about the West Philippine Sea, the communist insurgency, and terrorism as he covers national defense and security for Rappler. He enjoys telling stories about his hometown, Pasig City. JC has worked with Al Jazeera, CNN Philippines, News5, and CBN Asia.