‘Preposterous and shifty’
Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. did not do himself, much less his fervent anti-insurgency cause, a favor when he went on social media last week to “warn” popular actress Liza Soberano against associating herself with the progressive Gabriela Youth group lest, he warned, she end up dead, just like activist Josephine Anne Lapira, a UP Manila student who was killed in a firefight in Batangas between government troops and suspected members of the New People’s Army.
Parlade’s harangue, which also targeted 2018 Miss Universe Catriona Gray and actress Angel Locsin, ignited a firestorm of protest, with much of the public perceiving it as a veiled threat against Soberano and yet another example of government red-tagging. Even Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana found reason to caution Parlade, telling him to produce evidence or “otherwise just keep quiet.”
But, instead of standing down, Parlade, chief of the Southern Luzon Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and spokesperson of the controversial National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac), simply ratcheted up his verbal attacks. Within days, the poster boy of the government’s anti-insurgency campaign accused Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso of “welcoming” communist rebels because he ordered the removal of anti-communist tarpaulins that suddenly sprouted all over Manila. Then Parlade went on television to declare Gabriela and the Makabayan bloc in Congress “violent people” and “card-carrying members of the CPP.”
At least one local government official publicly stood up against Parlade’s McCarthyism (and, mystifyingly, it wasn’t Domagoso, who made no effort to chide his accuser). Cavite Gov. Jonvic Remulla denounced Parlade’s actions—“Ok ka lang, Parlade? Your train of thought and reasoning are preposterous and shifty”—and said the military officer “should be ashamed of himself” for accusing personalities and organizations without the requisite evidence.
“Threatening progressive and outspoken women who want to encourage a stronger feminist culture? That does not make them co-conspirators nor allies of the left-wing,” reminded Remulla. He also took up the cudgels for Domagoso, and declared that he too would forthwith remove any anti-insurgency posters in his province.
Even Malacañang must have found the guy’s methods too much, because presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said President Duterte was siding with Lorenzana in this matter. And, over in Congress, Speaker Lord Allan Velasco defended the Makabayan bloc, saying he was “deeply concerned over the continuous red-tagging of some members of the House of Representatives by Parlade that endangers the lives of these duly-elected officials.”
Suddenly, the brash Parlade, who must have imagined himself being hailed by his superiors as the latest fire-breathing scourge of the hated communists, found himself increasingly isolated and shunned. If hard evidence of his accusations were to be demanded, moreover, he might have little to pass off, especially after prosecutors of the Department of Justice recently dismissed cases against members of the Makabayan bloc and progressive youth organizations for alleged links to the underground revolutionary forces.
Specifically, the prosecutors said in their Oct. 15 resolution that the complainants, backed by the NTF-Elcac, “failed to prove that Anakbayan is an armed force or that members thereof used children to participate in hostilities… As it appears in the evidence presented, Anakbayan is just a comprehensive national mass organization of the Filipino youth that is advocating for jobs, land reform, education, rights, and justice.”
And there, in a nutshell, is the idea Parlade’s brain can’t seem to comprehend, for all his supposed expertise on the long-running Philippine insurgency (he wrote a book called “Analysis of the Communist Insurgency in the Philippines”). The enduring war in the countryside is fueled and nourished not so much by ideology, as by the monstrous social inequalities and injustices that have bedeviled Philippine society and consigned much of the populace to poverty for generations. Someone like Remulla partly gets it: “Roads, water, education, connectivity, modernity and economic prosperity,” he said, “are far more powerful than any propaganda tool” for communism, which “is a failed ideology that has become irrelevant in today’s modern world.”
Doesn’t the military say the same thing—that the insurgency is pretty much a spent force? And yet Parlade’s reckless, counterproductive moves only suggest panic and desperation.
The last the public heard from Parlade, he was on TV bleating against Remulla’s rebuke, protesting the unfairness of it all: “Why accuse me? That’s not fair… Tini-threaten niya ako.” Angel Locsin had the perfect riposte: “O badtrip diba? (smiley) Thank you Gov. Remulla for giving him a dose of his own medicine.”
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