2 ex-justices score Parlade anew at SC
MANILA, Philippines — Retired Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales have cited another serious threat against civil rights from an Army general who had anchored it this time on the assailed antiterror law.
In a four-page manifestation to the Supreme Court on Friday, Carpio, Morales, and other lawyers who had joined them in a petition challenging the constitutionality of the antiterror law said that Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. had made “clear threats” against press freedom enshrined in the Bill of Rights when he branded a journalist a rebel propagandist.
They said Parlade’s suggestion that Inquirer.net reporter Tetch Torres-Tupas may be liable for “aiding the terrorists by spreading lies” for reporting on allegations of illegal arrest and torture made by two men against soldiers posed a grave danger as the offense carried the penalty of life imprisonment.
“[T]he threats’ obvious invasion of protected expressive rights is possible only because the language of the [antiterror law] is vague and overbroad, casting a wide net of possibilities,” according to their manifestation.
“Such direct threats engender fear that chills journalists or even citizens from exercising their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of the press,” it said.
Parlade did not respond to the Inquirer’s text message requesting comment.
Carpio and his group filed one of the 37 petitions assailing Republic Act No. 11479, or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, in the high court.
On Tuesday, on the same day that the court opened oral arguments on the antiterror law, Tupas reported that two Aeta men—Japer Gurung and Junior Ramos—filed their own petition against it.
In their petition, the two men told the high tribunal that they were illegally arrested in August last year in Zambales province and tortured by soldiers who made Gurung eat his own feces as they forced him to admit that he was a member of the New People’s Army.
The field commander of the Army unit involved said the two men’s allegations had not been proven, according to Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo.
On Wednesday, Parlade, chief of the military’s Southern Luzon Command and spokesperson for the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, attacked Tupas on his Facebook page, saying she did not check whether her report was “true or fake” and called her a “propagandista.”
In response to a comment on his post, he said it would be “possible” to charge her with “aiding terrorists by spreading lies” in her report.
Parlade, however, erroneously believed that Tupas based her article on reports from the US-based Human Rights Watch and media group Kodao, which he both accused of being “propaganda machines” of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). In fact, her report was based on the two men’s narration of their experience after their arrest and alleged torture.
Associate Justice Marvic Leonen even cited that incident as the possible “actual case” that the high court should discuss in determining the constitutionality of the antiterror law.
Parlade also wrongly stated that the Army unit that the two men had blamed for their ordeal, the 73rd Division Reconnaissance Company (DRC), was in Davao.
The 7th Infantry Division under which the unit operated had confirmed in its Facebook page that the 73rd DRC was in Zambales at the time.
It was the second time that Carpio and Morales, who is also a retired magistrate, had reported threats from Parlade to the Supreme Court.
On Jan. 25, Carpio and his fellow petitioners brought a similar manifestation, calling the 15-member tribunal’s attention to the Army general’s threatening messages against those seeking to invalidate the antiterror law.
On Jan. 16, Parlade wrote on his Facebook page that the public should be “watchful of these individuals, groups and organizations opposing a law that will protect our citizens from terrorists.”
He warned opponents of the law that the “Day of Judgment is upon you and the Filipino people, who have suffered enough from the malignant hands of the (CPP), of which you are a part of (sic), sit in judgment.”
“Very soon, blood debts will be settled. The long arm of the law will catch up on you and your supporters,” he said.
OSG explanation sought
Carpio and his group told the Supreme Court Parlade’s threats were “a matter of serious concern that requires judicial remedy.” They urged the magistrates to compel the Office of the Solicitor General to explain Parlade’s action.
“Designed to intimidate … (Parlade’s) post also amounts to interference with the honorable court’s power to administer justice as it is directed to the parties and their counsel days before the matter is heard by the honorable court,” they said.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson, the main author of the antiterror law, had also castigated Parlade for making “careless and insensitive” remarks that undermine support for the law.
“At a time unity is needed against threats such as terrorism, actions that threaten to divide are the last thing our country needs,” he said.