Journalists demand Parlade apology for threat to reporter over story he disputes

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Journalists demand Parlade apology for threat to reporter over story he disputes
This photo shows Major Gen. Antonio Parlade, Armed Forces of the Philippines deputy chief of staff for civil military operations.

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 4 p.m.) — Journalists covering the justice beat on Thursday demanded an apology from Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. over a threat to sue Inquirer.net reporter Tetch Torres-Tupas for a story other reporters also covered.

In a statement, the Justice and Court Reporters Association slammed Parlade for hinting at filing a suit under the controversial Anti-Terrorism Act against Torres, who reported on two Aeta farmers requesting the Supreme Court to allow them to join the fight against very law.

The two claimed that they were tortured into admitting they are New People's Army members.

Parlade, in at least two Facebook posts, accused Torres of sourcing her report from New York-based watchdog Human Rights Watch and independent media outlets Kodao and Bulatlat, which he also labeled as "propaganda machines" of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

JUCRA, however, pointed out that Torres-Tupas based her article on the petition filed before the SC. Other media groups' reports were also based on the same document.

"Parlade's cluelessness notwithstanding, we demand [that the] general apologize to [Torres-Tupas]. If not, may the people in power take notice of this threat and realize there is a deliberate attempt to use the law to chill our freedom and right to report,” the group of justice beat reporters said.

Threat of anti-terrorism law complaints

Parlade did not stop accusing Torres-Tupas of being a propagandist for communist rebels, the journalist added. The general, they said, also hinted that the reporter can be charged for "aiding the terrorists by spreading lies."

While Parlade did not cite any law, providing material support to terrorists is penalized under Section 12 of the widely opposed Anti-Terrorism Act. Those convicted of the crime may face 12 years up to life imprisonment.

“JUCRA members also reported the Aetas' petition for intervention, based on the same Supreme Court pleading. Should we all wait for a threat from Parlade, too? Is the general suggesting that justice reporters are supporters of terrorists?” they added.

“Had Parlade also done his research and listened to the oral arguments, he would have known that posts like these are what petitioners claim as evidence of a credible threat of prosecution – threat that can warrant a judicial review of the law he seeks to protect and promote,” JUCRA also said.

Petitioners against the anti-terrorism law already called the attention of the justices to one of Parlade’s posts, which they said amounts to “possible intimidation prior to oral arguments.”

The SC already asked Solicitor General Jose Calida to explain Parlade’s post which the military official ended with: “Very soon, blood debts will be settled. The long arm of the law will catch up on you, and your supporters.”

'Parlade’s threat shows intent of anti-terrorism law'

National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers President Edre Olalia, in a separate statement, argued that Parlade’s threat to Torres-Tupas only proves what petitioners have raised against the anti-terrorism law.

“In a grotesque way, he is actually reinforcing and validating the myriad of objections and criticisms against the ATA,” Olalia said.

“This is a big favor he is giving us which is awfully unwelcome and outrageously unacceptable. Thanks but no thanks,” he added.

The NUPL and its different chapters and members have assisted in 11 out of the 38 petitions pending before the SC.

Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay also said that Parlade’s threat “clearly shows the true intent” of the anti-terrorism law: “To clamp down on our freedoms, and to threaten anyone that stands in the way of this fascist regime.”

‘Government inaction on threats is consent and endorsement’

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines for its part expressed alarm over Parlade's threat to Torres-Tupas, which the group said is also directed at others covering the proceedings on the anti-terrorism law.

“While the Office of the Solicitor General has yet to comment on whether Parlade’s previous post should be considered an official government communication, it cannot be denied that it, as well as the Facebook post against Torres-Tupas, are threats directed not only at those questioning the ATA but also those covering those questioning the controversial law,” NUJP said.

[Statement] Parlade's threat vs Inquirer.net's Torres-Tupas proves peril of ATL Not even a week since oral arguments on...

Posted by National Union of Journalists of the Philippines on Wednesday, 3 February 2021

It also pointed out that while the government has repeatedly assured the public that the Anti-Terrorism Act will not be “used to stifle dissent and clamp down on the press,” the actions and statements of officials such as Parlade, who is also tasked to implement the law, “speak louder than those press statements.”

“Government inaction on the threat against Torres-Tupas and on similar statements and threats against activists and journalists means government consent and even endorsement of those actions and belies the claim that the law does not target criticism and dissent,” NUJP added.

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