Human Rights Watch calls for thorough, impartial probe into Parlade
Screen grab shows Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. attending a Senate hearing on red-tagging.
Screen grab/Senate of the Philippines YouTube

Human Rights Watch calls for thorough, impartial probe into Parlade

Kristine Joy Patag (Philstar.com) - February 11, 2021 - 11:03am

MANILA, Philippines — International watchdog Human Rights Watch has called on the military to conduct a thorough and impartial probe into Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. who is finally put under investigation over his red-tagging, the latest targetting Inquirer.net reporter Tetch Torres-Tupas.

But the National Union of Journalist of the Philippines had flagged and was aghast with newly-installed Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Cirlito Sobejana’s statement that Torres-Tupas bears the “burden of denial” and that her reporting on filing of the two Aetas of a petition — where they claimed torture — equates “sympathy.”

Lt. Gen. Sobejana said earlier this week that he directed the chief of provost marshal to coordinate with the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, where Parlade serves as spokesperson. When asked if Torres-Tupas is also under probe, Sobejana was quoted in reports as saying: “Hindi rin natin ma-discount or ma-drop ‘yung possibility na—kasi sinulat nga, e. Kung, if you write something, meron ka ring… it is a dictate of your emotions, or your sympathy or whatever.”

HRW Deputy Director for Asia Division Phil Robertson, in a statement, raised whether the probe into Parlade is a one-off action or whether “pressure against the military’s use of red-baiting tactics may finally be having an impact.”

Robertson noted that this is not the first time Parlade, who, apart from being a high-ranking military official is also the spokesperson of the national government’s anti-communist task force, courted controversy over his accusations linking activists and celebrities, and now journalists to communist rebels.

In one of his Facebook posts, Parlade falsely accused Torres-Tupas of sourcing her story on “propaganda machines of the CPP” with an attached photo of the HRW and alternative news outfit Kodao.

“’Red-tagging’ constricts further the increasingly diminished democratic space in the Philippines, where activists, rights lawyers, journalists, and even ordinary Filipinos on social media are under threat. The military’s investigation into Parlade should be both thorough and impartial, and this should be the start of larger efforts to hold to account all government officials who give a wink and a nod to extrajudicial killings by their red-tagging,” Robertson added.

After hinting at suing Torres-Tupas for an anti-terrorism law violation for "spreading lies," Parlade has since clarified that he will not be filing a complaint against her. He has said he could "probably apologize" that his Facebook rant reflected on the NTF-ELCAC as his post was personal. 

READ: Parlade sticks to guns on comment vs reporter

NUJP reminds Sobejana: Accuser bears burden of proof

The NUJP, meanwhile, reminded Sobejana that not only is “burden of denial” a legal fiction, but also constitutes victim-blaming. “No, Sir, the burden of proof is ALWAYS on the accuser,” the group said.

They also pointed out that Parlade did not only bear false witness to Torres-Tupas, “as he has done with so many others, he even presented false evidence against her while, at the same time, red-tagging what he wrongly claimed were the sources for the article he found offense with — international watchdog HRW and alternative media outfit Kodao Productions.”

The Justice and Court Reporters Association, where Torres-Tupas is a member of, said that report which angered Parlade was based on a petition filed before the SC. Other journalists had also filed stories based on the same pleading, which is a legal document.

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

The NUJP said they saw Sobejana’s appointment as AFP chief as a cause of optimism due to his reputation as a “straight shooter, a soldier’s soldier,” as was seen in his order to probe Parlade.

The group pressed: “Surely, Parlade’s behavior constitutes conduct unbecoming and deserves an ‘Alright, Sir?’ challenge.”

The NUJP added that a democratic society is not a military organization which expects everyone to follow an order without a question.

“Freedom of expression and of thought, along with criticism and dissent, may seem messy but they are elements without which democracy cannot exist. And it was our democracy that you and the men and women of our armed services vowed to defend, was it now?”

“Please, Sir, Gen. Sobejana, do not prove us wrong,” the NUJP also said.

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