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Reporter must disprove Parlade, says AFP chief

/ 05:38 AM February 11, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The military investigation of the social media posts made by Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. who alleged that Inquirer.net reporter Tetch Torres Tupas was a propagandist for the communist rebels took a new twist — the journalist would now be compelled to disprove the Army general’s allegation.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana Jr. on Wednesday said that in the provost marshal’s probe of Parlade’s accusatory statements, both parties carried equal burdens of proof.

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“On the part of General Parlade, the burden of proving why he tagged Tupas as a (terrorist) supporter is on him. Now if he proves it and present evidence establishing that Tupas is a supporter, the burden of denial is on Tupas,” Sobejana said.

The military chief did not say in which venue Parlade and Tupas were to state their cases.

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“We will make the rule of law take its due course. Let’s just allow it to uncover the truth. I am not saying I am agreeing with General Parlade because it’s just an allegation. But we cannot discount, drop the possibility because it was published … that it might be a dictate of your emotions or your sympathy or whatever,” he said during an online press briefing.

Parlade angrily reacted to Tupas’ report on Feb. 2 on the personal accounts of two Aeta men — Japer Gurung and Junior Ramos — who told the Supreme Court in a petition against the antiterror law that they were tortured by soldiers after they were arrested following a clash between Army troops and New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas in Zambales in August last year.

Parlade, the Southern Luzon Command chief and spokesperson for the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac) said on his Facebook page that what the two men narrated never happened and that Tupas’ report was taken from the US-based Human Rights Watch and the media group Kodao Productions, calling both communist propaganda outfits. He called Tupas a “propagandista.”

Strong rebukes

His remark that it was possible to charge Tupas with aiding terrorists “by spreading lies,” drew strong rebukes from journalist groups and from two prominent former justices of the Supreme Court, Antonio Carpio and Conchita Carpio Morales.

The two former magistrates had reported Parlade’s threats against opponents of the antiterror law to the Supreme Court, which has not yet taken any action against the general.

Parlade later told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that he did not know that other reporters covering the high tribunal also reported the two Aeta men’s allegations of torture. He explained that it was only Tupas’ report that was handed to him.

Sobejana said it would “take some time for us really to uncover the truth, so let the authorities do their job to find out what is real.”

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“For now, we’re all hanging,” the military chief said. “Like I said, there are burdens (on) the two. Burden of proof and burden of denial if they’re accusing each other.”

Sobejana declared: “So if General Parlade proves what he’s saying, then he has peace of mind. On the part of Tupas, if she disproves the allegation, then she will have peace of mind. So whomever is not telling the truth and cannot present concrete evidence then he or she will suffer the consequence of having no peace of mind.”

Social media policy

Parlade on Tuesday said he spoke against Tupas as a “citizen” and not as a soldier, but Sobejana said the AFP had a social media policy and the actions of military personnel were guided by that.

“We have to respect the right of a person but, of course, in the public’s eyes a soldier is speaking so his personality as an ordinary citizen cannot be disconnected from his being a soldier,” Sobejana said.

“But certainly as we investigate we have to follow the existing policy. If there are violations, then we give due process. We have to exercise due diligence also in our investigation. So we will look at all angles,” he said.

Sobejana pointed out that Parlade’s statement that the Aetas’ claim was fake had been proven correct.

A field commander in Zambales said the two men’s allegations were not proven, according to AFP spokesperson Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo.

“What we’re not sure of is his allegation of Tupas being a terrorist group supporter,” Sobejana said.

Even then he assured the public he will not let his being a classmate of Parlade at the Philippine Military Academy get in the way of possible sanctions.

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TAGS: Antonio Parlade Jr., Cirilo Sobejana, red-tagging, Tetch Torres-Tupas
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