By Rommel F. Lopez

Lawmakers and artists were in an uproar over the government’s anti-insurgency chief’s veiled threats against celebrities Liza Soberano and Ms. Universe 2018 Catriona Gray for speaking out on women’s issues.

Senator Risa Hontiveros said the statements of Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) warning actress Liza Soberano for speaking in an online forum on women’s rights with Gabriela Youth is a shame to the military and the Philippine Military Academy (PMA)

“Huwag mong gamitin ang kapangyarihan mo bilang heneral upang takutin at pagbantaan ang mga kababaihang ito,” the senator reminded Parlade.

She added that Parlade’s threats and harassment against Soberano and Gray are “unacceptable.”

“By silencing them, pinapalampas mo ang karahasan, panggagahasa at pangaabuso na nararansan ng napakaraming Pilipino. This is a shame to your rank and to the PMA,” she said.

Mostly pro-Duterte social media pages started criticizing Soberano and linking her to the New People’s Army (NPA) after she participated as one of the special guests in a webinar by Gabriela Youth to discuss issues that girls and young women are facing in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.  She tearfully urged fellow celebrities and social media influencers to use their fame and influence to speak up on issues affecting women and children.

Hontiveros, reminded Parlade’s tame demeanor when he sat for his confirmation at the Commission on Appointments where the senator sat as a member.

“Lt. General Parlade, 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,” she said.

Hontiveros’ late husband, Francisco “Frank” Baraquel Jr., was a police colonel who died of a heart attack in 2005.  He belonged to the PMA Class of 1986 along with another senator, Bato dela Rosa.

However, Parlade said in a statement posted on the NTF-ELCAC Facebook page that Soberano “is not an NPA” because she is merely advocating for women’s rights.

“Let us not red-tag Liza Soberano. It’s not fair to her. She is merely supporting advocacy 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. So let’s help educate her and the other celebrity targets of Malayang Kilusan ng Bagong Kababaihan (MAKIBAKA), the Underground Mass Organization hiding under Gabriela Women’s Party,” he claimed.

The general also told Soberano to cut her ties with Gabriela Youth or meet the same fate of Josephine Anne Lapira, the 22 year old former Deputy Secretary General of Gabriela Youth of UP-Manila who who died in what the authorities said was an encounter between the NPA and government forces in Batangas province on the evening of November 28.

“Liza Soberano, there’ s still a chance to abdicate that group. If you don’t, you will suffer the same fate as Josephine Anne Lapira @ELLA, former Deputy Secretary General of Gabriela Youth of UP, Manila and defender of women’s rights, even against sexual predators amongst her comrades in the NPA unit she joined which is clearly stated in her handwritten letter addressed to a certain @EMIL,” he claimed.

Parlade also issued the same warning to Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray for supporting Gabriela.

“The choice is yours Liza. And so with you Catriona. Don’t follow the path 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 alleged.


While Malacañang defends Parlade, more lawmakers protest his statements

Malacañang on Thursday defended Parlade saying the general was just warning the actresses lest they be taken advantage of by Left-leaning groups while pushing for women’s rights.

“Pinag-iingatan lang nila na baka mamaya magamit sila ng Left. Pero naintindihan naman po ng Hukbong Sandatahan na sila’y nag-a-advocate ng karapatan ng kababaihan,” Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque told reporters in a virtual presser.

“Pero siyempre, ingat din po, kasi… ang mga Maoist sa Pilipinas, kung may puwedeng pagsamantalahan, e pagsasamantalahan nila,” he added.

In a series of tweets, Sen. Kiko Pangilinan was wondering why the actresses were targeted by Parlade when all they did was to speak up against violence against women?

“Ano ba ‘yan? Nakipagkwentuhan lang si @lizasoberano, binantaan na ng kamatayan. Siya na nga ang binastos at binantaan ng rape, tatakutin pa?” tweeted Pangilinan.

He said the military’s red-tagging of the actresses and other activists “is baseless and endangers their lives and security.”

“Ayon sa Saligang Batas, ang Armed Forces of the Philippines ang magtatanggol sa taumbayan, hindi maniniil. Protector, not oppressor. These threatening statements are uncalled for and unprofessional and should be called out.”

He stressed that advocates and progressives must not be mistaken for communists and terrorists.

“They speak to express and to empower. Paano naman naging komunista si @lizasoberano e nagtatanong lang siya tungkol sa mga abuso na nararanasan ng ating mga kabataan at kababaihan? Hindi krimen ang magpahayag ng opinyon kung paano mapabuti ang Pilipinas,” he said.

Panglinan’s own daughter, Frankie, was also “red-tagged” when she and her parents helped arrested urban poor protesters post bail in April while the metro was still in hard lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas blasted Parlade for red-tagging Soberano, even after he urged the public not to do so.

“Lieutenant General Antonio Parlade’s appeal to stop red-tagging Liza Soberano is starkly ironic because he actually red-tagged Soberano in his same statement. By saying that Soberano is ‘not yet an NPA,’ he is maliciously associating the actress with the armed movement when what she did in the youth forum was to only speak up for all the victims of gender-based violence and abuse,” Brosas said in a statement.

“It is clear that Parlade, the NTF-ELCAC and the paid trolls are the ones who are rabidly red-tagging Liza Soberano and other female celebrities and influencers who are taking a stand and speaking out against the macho-fascism under the Duterte regime. How come these macho-fascists have the audacity to mansplain strong women and lecture them on what to do? And why do they seem so afraid of women using their platform to defend other women?” she added.

Brosas stressed that fighting against gender-based violence is not terrorism. She also lauded Soberano’s commitment to fight for women’s rights.

“Hindi terorismo ang paglaban sa abuso. Be a Liza Soberano in this country being led by macho-fascist officials. We call on more public personalities to use their platforms to promote human rights, something that is badly needed today amidst the many forms of violence being promoted by the highest officials of the land,” she said.

Kabataan Partylist Representative Sarah Elago said women like her and the actresses targeted by the military have a right to demand gender equality and fight abuse.

“I stand with Liza Soberano, Catriona Gray, Angel Locsin, Gabriela, and all women and girls who are speaking up for the rights and welfare of women and girls. We won’t be silenced. We have the right to demand gender equality, and fight abuse and misogyny. Our voice matters,” she tweeted


More artists chimed in

Soberano’s legal counsel Atty. Juanito Lim Jr. said in a statement that the actress was merely “expressing her love and respect for women and children” which are her personal advocacy.

“Ms. Soberano remains to be apolitical. She does not support nor antagonize any person’s political views. The important point here is respect for others, a virtue she has conscientiously practiced all her life,” Lim said.

“We, thus, call on everyone concerned to be circumspect in associating our client with their respective politics beliefs, whatever it may be,” he added.

“Katarantaduhan yan! He is the one who needs re-education! Karapatan ng sinumang babae ang tumulong sa mga taong gusto niyang tulungan,” award-wininng director Joel Lamangan told ABS-CBN News Thursday.

“Ano ba? Pandemya na, wala ba silang magawa? Nag-uumpisa na ang kanilang pananakot at ang inuuna nila ang mga kababaihan na gusto nilang yumuko at sumunod sa kanila,” he said.

Veteran scriptwriter Ricky Lee also lamented the attacks on women artists even though they were just expressing an opinion on women’s issues.

“Di dapat ginagawa ‘yan. It creates an atmosphere of fear in democratic society everyone has a right to express their opinion kung ano ang tamang palakad sa ating lipunan,” he said.