POSTSCRIPT / October 25, 2020 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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The general tangles with the beauties

GO EASY on the ladies, general. You could have a hard time winning a word war with popular and engaging beauties speaking for women’s interests and basic rights that are so self-evident that they do not need elaborate explanations for people to embrace them.

The advice to tread lightly is offered to Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr., chief of the AFP’s Southern Luzon Command (Solcom) who is rising as the loudest voice on the side of the military tangling with human rights advocates and radical groups.

The spirited socmed exchange over human rights and state terror tactics is now a major front in the propaganda war. The military should be able to handle it – except that competing with attractive advocates requires special talent and tactics.

We wonder how Parlade would convince popular actress Liza Soberano to keep her distance from women’s advocacy groups that the military has tagged as terrorist or subversive fronts?

The general is being criticized in social media for giving similar cautionary advice or warning to other pretty and popular influencers such as Catriona Gray, the 2018 Miss Universe, and TV-movie actress Angel Locsin.

The interpretation of statements alone has become so confusing that Parlade now finds himself being accused not only of threatening Soberano but also of impliedly admitting the military’s role in the killing of some activists.

One dead activist cited is Josephine Lapira, a 22-year-old UP Manila student who was killed in a clash between government troops and suspected New People’s Army fighters in Nasugbu, Batangas, in November 2017.

In the charged atmosphere, simple statements elicit conflicting interpretations. In an Oct. 20 post on the Facebook page of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (a group formed by President Duterte in December 2018), Parlade said:

“Let us not red-tag Liza Soberano. It’s not fair to her. She is merely supporting advocacy for women’s rights. She has to be protected in the exercise of her rights. Is she an NPA? No, of course not. Not yet. So let’s help educate her and the other celebrity targets of Malayang Kilusan ng Bagong Kababaihan (MAKIBAKA), the Underground Mass Organization hiding under Gabriela.

“The choice is yours Liza. And so with you Catriona. Don’t follow the path Ka Ella Colmenares (Locsin) took in the underground and NPA Quezon. I am sure Angel Locsin and Neri Colmenares will not tell you this.”

His critics read that as threatening rights advocates and admitting the military’s killing of activists.

Parlade has been quoted to have said also: “Liza Soberano, there’s still a chance to abdicate that group. If you don’t, you will suffer the same fate as Josephine Anne Lapira.” He reportedly warned Gray, an urban poor advocate, against supporting Gabriela and radical groups.

He called out Rep. Arlene Brosas (Gabriela party-list) for not informing the public about her group’s alleged “hidden violent agenda” and red-tagged the sister of actress Angel Locsin, Ella Colmenares, who he said had joined the communist New People’s Army in Quezon province.

(Locsin and Ella are cousins of human rights lawyer Neri Colmenares, a member of the Bayan Muna party-list.)

Soberano was red-tagged after she appeared in an online forum organized by Gabriela Youth, where she spoke on the “tragedies and hardships” faced by women and children. Instead of scaring her, the tagging reportedly inflamed her to continue speaking up.

The military has turned social media into another battlefield as the government competes for the people’s minds. Its lists of actual and potential enemies have grown longer with the inclusion of critics in various sectors.

Now the military is not simply shooting down insurgents in the field, but also screening cyberspace for groups and individuals spreading outright lies and injurious truths to wear down people’s trust in the government and eventually bring it down.

 Biden for allowing ‘Dreamers’ to stay

WATCHING the final US presidential debate Thursday, my heart leaped when the “Dreamers” were mentioned during the 1.5-hour exchange between Republican President Trump and Democratic challenger former Vice President Joe Biden.

“Dreamers” are the 649,000 or so immigrants who have work permits and protection from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA). Qualified enrollees must have met certain conditions, such as having entered the US before their 16th birthday and not being convicted of specified crimes.

Some 3,320 of them came from the Philippines, compared to 6,280 from South Korea, 2,290 from India, and 521,440 from Mexico, the top birth country. Most of the undocumented immigrants entered the US at a very young age in circumstances beyond their control.

In 2012, President Obama issued the DACA executive order after the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act did not pass in Congress many times. The youngsters affected are often referred to as “Dreamers.”

On June 18, 2020, the Supreme Court in a 5-4 ruling blocked the Trump administration’s attempt to end DACA. If Republicans win control of the Congress, the administration could kill DACA. While Trump appears bent on ending it, Biden reiterated during the debate a more tolerant attitude of regularizing the stay of the Dreamers.

Immigration was just one of several topics raised in the debate that came off better (thanks to the moderator, NBC News White House correspondent Kristen Welker), meaning it was less chaotic than the first encounter on Sept. 9. The election will be on Nov. 3, Tuesday.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of October 25, 2020)

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