The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said that it is only trying to educate the public and popular individuals on the dangers of getting heavily involved with the communist terrorists and their allied groups.
The military issued the statement Saturday after Southern Luzon Command (SolCom) chief and National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF ELCAC) member, Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade, Jr., advised actress Liza Soberano to abdicate her ties with Gabriela Youth early this week after she participated in a webinar with the group.
The action drew flak from some sectors with Parlade being accused of red-tagging the actress.
“We in the AFP (have) the solemn obligation to fight and defeat communist terrorists w/c means death from either side. But before we reach that point, we trail our focus on prevention. Hence the effort to inform Ms. Soberano and educate the netizens,” AFP spokesperson Marine Major Gen. Edgard Arevalo said in a statement forwarded to reporters on Saturday.
He clarified that the AFP is not saying that Soberano is a member of the New People’s Army (NPA) and that they are worried that the actress and her advocacies may be used by some sectors with reported links to the underground movement in recruiting for the communist terrorist group (CTG) owing to her popularity.
Arevalo added that the CTG is known to recruit students, youth leaders, and influencers and is not propaganda being spread by the AFP.
“Student leaders Lapira, Manalo, et al., who figured and died during Armed encounters with soldiers were testaments to this deadly trail. The fact that Hands Off Our Children came about is a truth to tell,” he said.
This is why the AFP is working hard to prevent the recruitments of these youths by the communist rebels and their allies, he added.
“And this sworn duty of protecting our people is what we in the AFP cannot abdicate knowing the stories of many young and idealist student leaders who were dragged into the ranks of the CTG and meeting their untimely death for a worthless cause that is now being rejected not only by our people but by nations all over the world,” Arevalo said.
He added the AFP has the highest respect for women and women’s rights that are being espoused by Soberano and Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray.
“We even accorded military honors to the former Miss Universe in August 2019 for bringing prestige to Filipino Women and for her advocacies,” Arevalo said.
Just a reminder
Earlier, the NTF ELCAC clarified that it is not red-tagging celebrities Soberano and Gray but only reminding the two women to be wary that the groups that are getting in touch.
In a recent radio interview, lawyer Marlon Bosantog, NTF ELCAC legal cooperation cluster spokesperson, said role models like celebrities and showbiz personalities may give a sense of legitimacy to the advocacies being pushed forward by leftist organizations such as the Gabriela Youth.
Soberano recently participated in and was one of the speakers in an event led by Gabriela.
Bosantog, also Director for Legal Affairs of the National Commission of Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), said Parlade did not red-tag Soberano nor Gray when he called out their attention.
“Gen. Parlade did not red-tag Liza and Catriona, what he was saying was that the organizations getting in touch with them are leftist organizations and are allies of the CPP-NPA-NDF (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front) like the Gabriela Youth that invited Liza Soberano, taking advantage of her popularity so they could recruit or give a sense of legitimacy to their advocacy,” Bosantog said in a mix of English and Filipino.
“They were not red-tagged by saying that they are members of the CPP-NPA-NDF because that is red-tagging when someone says that you are a member but he did not say that,” he added.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, meanwhile, said the NTF ELCAC will convene a meeting to streamline its operations and capitalize on gains made in recent months.
“I am convening a meeting with these people…si General Parlade, General Esperon, at saka iyong ibang (and other) members ng (NTF) ELCAC. Kasi ang vice chair ng (because the vice chair) ELCAC ay si Secretary (Hermogenes) Esperon (National Security Adviser) eh. Member lang ako doon (I am just a member),” he said in a statement Saturday.
It can be recalled that hundreds of former rebels (FRs), militia ng bayan, and their supporters have decided to rejoin civil society over the past two years.
NTF ELCAC instrumentalities, such as Task Force Balik-Loob, which supervises the implementation of the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) for FRs, have continuously been receiving those who have turned their backs on the CTG, and processed benefits for FRs and members of the militia ng bayan despite the pandemic.
Lorenzana added that the NTF ELCAC’s communications strategy will also be discussed in the said meeting.
“I think we should talk closely, kung ano ba talaga ang magandang gawin (What is best thing to do). Although ELCAC is a very good idea, pero kung minsan, hindi mo naman pwedeng lahatin na (Sometimes you cannot generalize). We must be selective and dapat may ebidensiya tayo (we should have evidence) when communicating,” he said. (pna.gov.ph)