Filipinos stood by Kapamilya actress Liza Soberano and Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray after a senior military official released a statement urging them to rethink their ties with a progressive group advocating for women’s rights, Gabriela Youth.
Soberano guested as a speaker in a webinar of the youth group last week while Gray has been vocal about her stance on national issues such as the controversial anti-terror law and the shutdown of media giant ABS-CBN in local airwaves.
In a statement released Wednesday, Lieutenant General Antonio Parlade Jr., the commander of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Southern Luzon Command and spokesperson of the government’s anti-communist task force group, called the public to refrain from red-tagging Soberano since she is “merely supporting advocacy for women’s rights.”
But he proceeded to issue a warning at the actress after acknowledging her initiative.
“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 Women’s Party,” Parlade claimed.
He also called out Rep. Arlene Brosas (Gabriela Party-list) and accused her of having “hidden violent agenda” in terms of supposedly recruiting people.
The military official particularly warned Soberano against her association with the youth arm of Gabriela Women’s Party.
“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 @ELLA, former Deputy Secretary General of Gabriela Youth of UP, Manila and defender of women’s rights, even against sexual predators amongst her comrades in the NPA unit she joined which is clearly stated in her handwritten letter addressed to a certain @EMIL,” Parlade claimed in Facebook.
Lapira was a student at the University of the Philippines who was among those killed in an encounter between the military and the New People’s Army in 2017. She was described as a scholar who “offered her life in pursuit of her principles of serving the people.”
The military official went on to claim that it was a “pity” Lapira has learned things “like nabbing a firearm” in the “underground.”
He also addressed Gray in his warning.
“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,” he added.
Ella Colmenares, the sister of actress Angel Locin, is an environmental and animal welfare activist.
Following this statement, Brosas criticized Parlade for “maliciously associating” Soberano to NPA for “speaking up for the victims of gender-based violence and abuse” and said that he, along with NTF-ELCAC and the “paid trolls” are the ones “rabidly” red-tagging people taking a stand against macho-fascism.
“How come these macho-fascists have the audacity to mansplain strong women and lecture them on what to do? And why do they seem so afraid of women using their platform to defend other women? These rabid NTF-ELCAC executives are using their rehashed script to discredit Gabriela Women’s Party despite our long track record of advocating women’s rights,” she said.
Clarice Palce, the secretary-general of Gabriela Youth, likewise defended Soberano against Parlade’s remarks and stressed that the actress had only attended a webinar about women and children’s rights.
WOMEN & CHILDREN’S RIGHTS ang topic ng webinar. Halos di nga nabanggit si Duterte doon tapos di na mapakali itong si Parlade at NTF-ELCAC? OH, THESE LAPDOGS.
— CLARICE (@iamClaricePalce) October 21, 2020
‘Protect Liza, Catriona’
Other Filipinos expressed their support to the female personalities who were called out by Parlade through tweets and hashtags.
“I stand with Liza and Catriona and the rest of the women.
#ProtectLizaSoberano #ProtectCatrionaGray,” a Twitter user said.
“This gov’t is starting a silent ‘war’ against (artists) who used their social platform to push their advocacy and principles. #ProtectLizaSoberano #protectcatrionagray #protectfreedomspeech #noredtagging,” another online user said.
“Lah minamandohan mo sila?????? LIZA AND CATRIONA, ITULOY LANG ANG LABAN!!!!” a Filipino said in response to Parlade’s warning.
Another Filipino reminded Parlade that Filipinos have the right to freedom of speech, as enshrined in the 1987 Philippine Constitution, the highest law of the land.
Democratic tayo right? hindi dictatorian, hindi manipulative. We all have our freedom of speech and actions as well. So bakit niyo pinagbabantaan si Liza Soberano and Catriona Gray? The narrow mindedness of these officials is mind boggling! https://t.co/RwYtXZRoSm
— yalu (@mercasapeyie) October 22, 2020
Gabriela likewise launched the hashtag “#DefendFilipinoWomen” after Parlade’s statement.
Soberano was previously suspected of being an alleged NPA member by a Duterte supporter on YouTube after she appeared on a webinar by Gabriela Youth last week to discuss girls and young women’s issues amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The actress reportedly talked about the “young woman’s contribution to raising awareness and creating a safe environment for young women amid the pandemic.”
But she was soon accused of supposedly being an NPA member, which prompted Filipinos to rally behind her through the hashtag “#DefendLizaSoberano.”
Gabriela Women’s Party, a progressive women’s group with a seat in the Congress, has been subjected to red-tagging accusations of the government even though it is an unarmed organization advocating for the advancement of women and children’s rights.
She explained that she did it since she wanted to stand up for the silent victims of rape, rape jokes and misogyny.
Soberano’s initiative was welcomed by Gabriela, which in turn tweeted the hashtags #StandWithLiza and #LabananAngAbuso to show its support for her legal action.