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Monday, November 30, 2020

Farcical witness

Editorial, Philippine Daily Inquirer / November 07, 2020

Where do they find these people? Not for the first time under this administration, another dubious character has stepped up to the public stage to testify against a perceived enemy or enemies of the state. This time around, that dubious character is one Jeffrey “Ka Eric” Celiz, while the targets seem to be not just certain folk in the arts and culture and entertainment field, but a broad swath of the industry itself.

Though he keeps his targets conveniently nameless, Celiz seeks to tar with an indiscriminate brush arts and media personalities, including two longstanding artist organizations and, it seems from his faulty testimony, two National Artists for Film.

Celiz was trotted out by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac) at the Senate hearing on the “red-tagging” activities by its spokesperson, Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. Parlade had posted online a veiled threat against young actor Liza Soberano after she took part in a web forum on violence against women organized by Gabriela Youth. Also mentioned in Parlade’s rant were outspoken personalities Miss Universe Catriona Gray and actor-activist Angel Locsin. Locsin’s sister, the general insisted, is a member of the New People’s Army, insinuating that the armed group is also Soberano et al.’s eventual destination if they persisted in their erroneous ways.

Incensed at this brazen, baseless public scolding that was deplored not just by the public, but even by Parlade’s superiors in Malacañang and the defense department, some senators convened a hearing to get at the truth of Parlade’s allegations, and to determine if the NTF-Elcac’s more than generous budget of P19 billion could be redirected to more beneficial ends, such as helping the victims of Typhoon “Rolly,” addressing the decades-old housing crisis, and augmenting the funds to be used in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is where Celiz entered the picture, starring in an NTF-Elcac Facebook post where he described himself as a former communist rebel with nearly three decades of “revolutionary experience.”

Celiz was last in the public eye when he worked as spokesperson of then Iloilo City Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog who was, in 2016, linked to illegal drugs by President Duterte. Celiz then disappeared, only to resurface a few days ago after four years during which, he claimed, he became part of the anti-communist campaign and is now a government consultant for peace and security.

What makes Celiz qualified as a witness on the so-called infiltration of the arts and entertainment field by communists? He claims he was a member of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army and used to head the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, a broad alliance of progressive organizations, in Panay Island.

But his bona fides as a commentator, much less an informant on the entertainment field, were quickly demolished by his very own farcical testimony.

First, Celiz accused two artists’ groups—the Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP) and the Musicians and Artists of the Philippines—of being “open organizations” the Communist Party uses as “recruitment grounds” to get more artists to join in the communist cause.

“Baseless, dangerous, and shameful accusations,” replied CAP secretary general Lisa Ito, who reminded everyone that the group was formed way back in 1983 “in protest against censorship during the Marcos dictatorship.”

Then Celiz testified that two film directors were supposedly involved with the CPP. Though he refused to name the directors, Celiz said their films included “Maynila sa Kuko ng Agila” and “Walang Himala.”

As netizens would say, LOL (laugh out loud). There are no such films in local film history. Was Celiz referring to Lino Brocka’s “Maynila sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag” (1975) or Augusto Buenaventura’s “Sa Kuko ng Agila” (1989)? “Walang Himala,” on the other hand, is a famous line from Ishmael Bernal’s “Himala” (1982). It must be noted that Brocka and Bernal, now both deceased, are National Artists for Film, “the highest national recognition given to Filipinos who have made distinct contributions in the field of arts and letters,” according to the government’s own Official Gazette.

With his incredible testimony, Celiz made himself the laughingstock of not just the artistic community, but also of the generations of Filipinos who immensely enjoyed and were moved by the films and artists he recklessly alluded to.

For deploying a charlatan like Celiz, Parlade is proving that not only is his campaign engaged in fake news and dangerous disinformation, it is also driven by ignorance so deep it is laughable. Senators should continue to hold the task force’s feet to the fire in calling out such odious methods and moving for deep cuts in its budget, so that the billions of taxpayer money otherwise wasted on preposterous characters like Celiz and the kind of useless “intelligence” paraded before the people could be put to much better use.#

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