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Senators defend Liza Soberano, Catriona Gray vs general’s ‘red-tagging’

Senators Risa Hontiveros and Francis Pangilinan on Thursday, October 22, came to the defense of Liza Soberano and Catriona Gray after a military general warned the celebrities against supporting women’s group Gabriela.

In the same statement she issued on Thursday afternoon, Hontiveros strongly criticized Lieutenant General Antonio Parlade Jr, Southern Luzon military commander and spokesman of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), for "red-tagging" the two women.

The NTF-ELCAC is the group leading the government’s campaign against communist rebels, including its anti-communist propaganda.

“When you sat in front of me during your appointment hearing, you were like a lamb. I gave you the benefit of the doubt during your promotion hearing because I believed that, just like my late husband Frank, you abide by the motto of the PMA: courage, integrity and loyalty,” said Hontiveros, addressing Parlade.

'See you in the next round'

Hontiveros interviewed Parlade when he faced the Commission on Appointments on August 24. The panel consisting of lawmakers from both chambers of Congress then confirmed Parlade’s appointment and promotion as a 3-star general.

Hontiveros’ deceased husband Frank Baraquel was a police colonel and an alumnus of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) “Sinagtala” Class of 1986.

“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 pang-aabuso na nararansan ng napakaraming Pilipino,” Hontiveros said on Thursday,

(Do not use your power as a general to intimidate and threaten these women. Your threats and harassment are unacceptable. By silencing them, you condone the violence, rape, and abuse that so many Filipinos are going through.)

“This is a shame to your rank and to the PMA.... We betray the integrity of our military, and especially our women and children by allowing abuses of power like this to happen," she added.

Hontiveros told Parlade that she would remember the incident the next time he faces the CA.

“We will not forget this. Tatandaan ko ang lahat ng mga ito, at paghandaan mo ang susunod nating paghaharap sa Commission on Appointments. Hindi ko ito kayang palampasin (I will remember all this, and be ready for when we next face each other at the Commission on Appointments. I cannot let this pass),” Hontiveros said.

“See you in the next round,” the opposition senator added.

Parlade will be eligible for promotion and appointment as military chief when General Gilbert Gapay retires in February 2021.

'I salute and embrace you'

One of the military’s most outspoken anti-communist officers, Parlade has been criticized several times for his brash statements on social media.

In a post on the NTF-ELCAC Facebook page on Tuesday, October 20, Parlade warned Soberano that she might end up killed in battle if she continued supporting Gabriela, which he links to the communist-led New People’s Army (NPA). Parlade mentioned Gray in the same post.

The general also insinuated that movie star Angel Locsin is connected with the NPA underground movement.

Slamming Parlade’s “red-tagging,” Hontiveros encouraged Soberano and Gray to keep speaking up for peoples’ rights.

“To Liza and Catriona: It is difficult and painful to be on the front lines fighting beside persons oppressed by a norm that advocates rape, murder and exploitation. But every time you speak up, another girl becomes braver and another life is saved. I’m behind you every step of the way,” the senator said.

“This is your constitutional right; don't be afraid. Patuloy niyo lang panindigan ang karapatan niyong magsalita. Kasama niyo ako at karamihan sa ating mamamayan (Keep standing up for your right to speak out. I am with you, along with most of our citizens). I salute and embrace you,” Hontiveros added.

Pangilinan: Military should be protector, not oppressor

Senator Francis Pangilinan also criticized Parlade, and praised Soberano, Gray, and Locsin for speaking against the abuse of women and children.

Ano ba ‘yan? Nakipagkwentuhan lang si Liza, binantaan na ng kamatayan. Siya na nga ang binastos at binantaan ng rape, tatakutin pa (What? Liza just made conversation, and ends up with a death threat. She's the one disrespected and threatened with rape, yet she's also being intimidated)?" Pangilinan said in a separate statement on Thursday.

“According to the Constitution, the Armed Forces of the Philippines is the protector, not oppressor, of the people. These threatening statements are uncalled for and unprofessional, and should be called out,” he added.

Pangilinan's daughter Frankie was also "red-tagged" when she and her parents helped arrested urban poor protesters post bail in April.

"Advocates and progressives must not be mistaken for communists and terrorists. They speak to express and to empower," the senator said.

Soberano’s lawyer Jun Lim issued a statement earlier on Thursday denouncing the “red-tagging” of the actress that followed her participation in a webinar led by Gabriela Youth.

"Expressing her love and respect for women and children is her personal advocacy,” Lim said, adding that Soberano “remains to be apolitical.”

Malacañang meanwhile defended Parlade, saying the issue was about communists possibly exploiting Soberano and Gray’s advocacies.

The two celebrities have openly expressed their views on national issues and current affairs on their social media platforms.

Many Filipinos criticized Parlade on social media, with one netizen wondering whether his statement was “tantamount to a public death threat.” –

JC Gotinga

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.