By: Christia Marie Ramos, Gabriel Pabico Lalu/INQUIRER.net / October 22, 2020
MANILA, Philippines — Several lawmakers scored a top-ranking military official over his “unacceptable threats” against actress Liza Soberano and other celebrities for engaging with women’s group Gabriela and speaking out against violence against women and children.
Senator Risa Hontiveros said Thursday that Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Southern Luzon Command chief Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. should not use his authority as a general to “threaten” and issue warnings against Soberano.
“Your threats and harassment are unacceptable,” the legislator said in a statement. “By silencing them, pinapalampas mo ang karahasan, panggagahasa at pangaabuso na nararansan ng napakaraming Pilipino (you are condoning violence and abuse being experienced by a lot of Filipinos.) This is a shame to your rank and to the [Philippine Military Academy].”
“I started as a young advocate for women’s rights, and married a military man, and raised a family of [four] with him. We betray the integrity of our military, and especially our women and children by allowing abuses of power like this to happen,” she added.
Further, Hontiveros, who chairs the Senate Committee on Women, cautioned Parlade when he faces again the Commission on Appointments (CA).
Parlade last faced the Senate’s CA in August.
“We will not forget this. Tatandaan ko ang lahat ng mga ito at paghandaan mo ang susunod natin paghaharap sa Comission on Appointments. Hindi ko ito kayang palampasin,” Hontiveros went on.
(We will not forget this. I will remember this and be ready when we see each other again before the Commission on Appointments. I will not let this slide.)
Gabriela Women’s Party-list Rep. Arlene Brosas likewise slammed Parlade for trying to “mansplain” things, after the military official gave unsolicited advice to Soberano.
Brosas said the military official was “mansplaining” — or men explaining issues to women in a condescending and belittling manner — when he told critics of Soberano that the actress needs to be educated about the supposed true agenda of the party-list group.
Brosas further noted that Parlade’s pronouncements were loaded with irony because he also red-tagged Soberano in the same statement.
Earlier, while Parlade, who is also part of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), urged Soberano’s critics to stop red-tagging her – or labeling someone as sympathetic to the local communist movement – for joining an online seminar hosted by Gabriela, he also said the actress is “not yet” part of the New People’s Army, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
“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,” Brosas said in a separate statement.
“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 asked.
Parlade has also mentioned in his statements other female celebrities — actress Angel Locsin and Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray, who both have expressed support to women and children advocacies.
The AFP official even said Locsin and her uncle, former Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, would never tell Soberano and Gray about Ella Colmenares — Locsin’s sister whom he accused of joining the NPA.
“General Parlade’s appeal to stop red-tagging Liza Soberano is starkly ironic because he actually red-tagged Soberano in his same statement,” Brosas said.
“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,” she explained.
Recently, Soberano was tagged by vlogger as a supporter of the communist movement after appearing in the online seminar of Gabriela youth. However, Soberano’s role in the seminar was to speak on violence against women and children, and safe spaces — legitimate and legal issues that are neither subversive nor violent.
Brosas believes that Parlade’s recent statements were only meant to discredit Gabriela despite its background as a staunch women’s rights defender.
“These rabid NTF-ELCAC executives are using their rehashed script to discredit Gabriela Women’s Party despite our long track record of advocating women’s rights,” she said.
“Our 20 years of advancing women and children’s rights inside and outside of Congress cannot be smeared by their repeated lies. They are becoming desperate as we approach our 20th Anniversary celebration on October 25, wherein we will highlight our achievements and the broad support for our agenda and advocacy,” she added.
The NTF-ELCAC and the Makabayan bloc have butted heads several times, even during this COVID-19 pandemic, as mass movements continued despite the lockdowns.
‘Uncalled for, unprofessional’
Senator Francis Pangilinan, meanwhile, pointed out that the duty of the AFP is to protect and not to oppress.
“These threatening statements are uncalled for and unprofessional and should be called out,” he said.
Pangilinan recalled that his daughter, Frankie, was previously red-tagged for shouldering the bail of those who were arrested for lining up for food rations and violating lockdown restrictions in Quezon City.
“Advocates and progressives must not be mistaken for communists and terrorists,” the senator said.
“They speak to express and to empower,” he added.
‘Don’t be afraid’
Hontiveros then called on both Soberano and Gray to continue speaking up about their advocacies.
“It is difficult and painful to be at the frontlines 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…I salute and embrace you,” she added.
(This is your constitutional right; don’t be afraid. Continue defending you principles and your right to speak up…I salute and embrace you.)