What to do with Parlade? Lorenzana says it’s up to AFP chief
MANILA, Philippines—What to do with controversial Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade is up to newly-installed Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana but Parlade might have gone too far in tagging an INQUIRER.net reporter as a Red propagandist, according to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.
Parlade is spokesperson of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac), which got at least P16 billion in funding from the national government.
He is also chief of the military’s Southern Luzon Command (Solcom).
Lorenzana told CNN Philippines on Monday (Feb. 8) that Parlade might have “overstepped” his boundaries.
“Maybe he overstepped what he was doing. I’m going to let the chief of staff deal with him,” Lorenzana said in that interview. “They should talk first how to address this concern from a journalist and the media about these accusations by General Parlade,” Lorenzana added.
He said the AFP would be in close contact with Parlade “to prevent this from happening in the future.”
Parlade came under fire from journalists, human rights groups and legislators for branding INQUIRER.net reporter Tetch Torres-Tupas as a propagandist of enemies of the government for reporting about the claim of two Aetas of alleged torture and detention by government soldiers following the death of a soldier in clash in Zambales.
The Aetas’ claim, which Parlade said was “fake” and part of “propaganda”, is being used in support of one of dozens of petitions filed at the Supreme Court against the controversial anti-terror law.
Torres-Tupas and other journalists had been reporting about a legal document on file at the Supreme Court that was based on the 38th petition filed against the new terror law and which presented the Aetas’ claim as an example of how the new law was prone to abuse.
On a Facebook post, Parlade commented on Torres-Tupas’ report, personally attacking the INQUIRER.net reporter and accusing her of “aiding the terrorists by spreading lies.”
Lorenzana, who had talked with Parlade last week, said the general just wanted media to air the military’s side on the issue.
“What he’s just asking for is that the journalist who published the side of the Aetas should also publish the side of the military,” said Lorenzana in the CNN interview, speaking partly in Filipino.
Lorenzana said the Aetas’ claim of torture had been investigated “and according to General Parlade, it really didn’t happen.”
“There’s a very thin line between freedom of expression and aiding the terrorist,” the defense chief said. “Let’s look at that because General Parlade is pitiful, he’s being accused when in fact what he’s saying could be right,” Lorenzana said.
“Maybe what I would suggest to the media is also to seek the statement or side of the military, especially General Parlade not only to publish the side of the alleged torture of the Aetas,” Lorenzana said.
“They should also ask General Parlade what it is really because according to General Parlade, it didn’t happen,” he said.
INQUIRER.net did publish the side of the Army in 2020 and also last week.
Lorenzana also suggested that Torres-Tupas and Parlade sit down and sort things out.
“I understand the feeling of the journalist because she felt threatened,” Lorenzana said.
“Her life may be in danger and so I think these two sides should meet and discuss these things. Nothing could not be resolved by talking to each other to resolve the issues,” he added.
“Maybe they will find both of them are correct and they should have just considered the position of the other side before talking,” according to Lorenzana.
Media groups and some government officials condemned Parlade’s recent remarks and threat to have Torres-Tupas prosecuted. Parlade is not new to controversies, however. In the past, he had linked some celebrities to New People’s Army (NPA).
Asked if Parlade faced penalty for his recent and past comments, Lorenzana said an investigation would be conducted to determine “if he deserves to be punished.”
“We will investigate and find out if he deserves to be punished, disciplinary action will be imposed upon him,” said Lorenzana.
“We’ll direct the AFP to do some investigation and inquiry to find out if he really made a mistake there,” he said.
Sobejana said last week, however, that Parlade was speaking on behalf of the NTF-Eclac and not the AFP, which is just a component of the task force which President Rodrigo Duterte envisioned to be an all-government counterinsurgency approach. Sobejana and Parlade are both graduates of Philippine Military Academy “Hinirang” Class of 1987.
The AFP chief said there’s need to further discuss these as his statements would somehow reflect those of the AFP.
All departments of government were supposed to have separate roles in the task force, which has been allotted at least P16 billion in funding.
In September 2020, during testimony at the House of Representatives, Commission on Audit chair Michael Aguinaldo said tracking how NTF-Elcac funds are used could require a special audit “because the amount of money involved is not typical.”
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