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Editorial

Who’s the terrorist?

/ 04:07 AM February 09, 2021

At the rate Army Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. is dispensing threats, he is fast becoming the biggest argument on why the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 is a very dangerous law.

Retired Supreme Court associate justices Antonio Carpio and Conchita Carpio Morales called the attention of the high tribunal on Parlade making “clear threats’’ against Inquirer.net reporter Tetch Torres Tupas for her story on two Aeta men who told the Supreme Court that they were tortured by the military to admit that they were communist insurgents.

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The two Aeta men, who were the very first to be charged under the anti-terror law, filed a petition-in-intervention at the high court asking to be allowed to join petitioners who have filed 37 petitions questioning the constitutionality of the new law.

After Tupas came out with the story, Parlade, spokesperson of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac), called Tupas a “propagandist’’ and threatened to file a case against her under the anti-terror law. When a commenter asked if it was possible to charge Tupas, Parlade replied: “Aiding the terrorists by spreading lies? PUEDE (Possible).’’

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But what was it that Tupas did that would qualify as “aiding terrorists”? She merely did her job of writing about the petition filed by Japer Gurung and Junior Ramos, who said they were victims of illegal arrest and torture by Army soldiers from the 73rd Division Reconnaissance Company in August last year in Zambales province. Tupas reported that Gurung, in his pleading, said he was mauled, placed inside a sack and hung upside down, suffocated with cigarette smoke in a plastic bag, and forced to eat his own feces to make him admit that he was a member of the New People’s Army.

Parlade said “no such thing happened,’’ and charged that Tupas did not even bother to check with the military if what she reported was true or fake. Note that the account reported by Tupas was from an official document filed before the highest court of the land.

Carpio and Morales said Parlade’s threat posed a grave danger, as the offense of aiding terrorists carried the penalty of life imprisonment. “Such direct threats engender fear that chills journalists or even citizens from exercising their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of the press,” they said in a four-page manifestation, noting that Parlade’s sense of impunity illustrates the very danger of the anti-terror law. “The obvious invasion of protected expressive rights is possible only because the language of the [anti-terror law] is vague and overbroad, casting a wide net of possibilities.”

Media groups, including the Justice and Court Reporters Association of which Tupas is a member, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, and Inquirer.net have rightly pushed back against Parlade, who was remiss even in simple fact-checking. He erroneously suggested that Tupas got her information from the US-based Human Rights Watch and media group Kodao, which he both tagged as “propaganda machines” of the Communist Party of the Philippines. For 2021, the NTF-Elcac was allocated a whopping P19 billion in funds, including P3 billion for its operational expenses. And yet Parlade’s intelligence work, if it could be called that, is laughably inept, finding the easy, wrong targets every time.

First, he red-tagged celebrities Liza Soberano, Angel Locsin, and Catriona Gray, then certain members of the House, whole universities, and now journalists. He also branded all those opposing or criticizing the anti-terror law as communists.

A few days before the scheduled oral arguments at the Supreme Court, Parlade posted a warning urging people to be “watchful of these individuals, groups and organizations opposing a law that will protect our citizens from terrorists. What’s their agenda?”

Worse, he appeared to be suggesting violent retribution for his targets: “The Day of Judgment is upon you and the Filipino people, who have suffered enough from the malignant hands of the CPP NPA NDF of which you are part of (sic), sit in judgment. Very soon, blood debts will be settled.”

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That prompted Carpio and Morales to file their first motion asking the Supreme Court to compel Solicitor General Jose Calida to explain the basis for Parlade’s statement and whether this was the government’s position. “By endangering their (the petitioners’) lives and creating an atmosphere of fear,’’ the magistrates pointed out, Parlade himself committed terrorism under the anti-terror law.

New Armed Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana has vowed that the military would learn from these mistakes.

“Henceforth, my instruction was that whenever we talk, or whatever things we do, we should be very deliberate, we should exercise due diligence. In that way, we can give good service to our countrymen, we should not hurt anybody unless he is the enemy of the state,’’ Sobejana said.

Wise counsel he should firmly, unequivocally direct at the raving mad dog his organization has unleashed.

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TAGS: Anti-Terrorism Law, Antonio Parlade Jr., Cirilito Sobejana, Editorial, red-tagging, Tetch Torres Tupas
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