No apologies from Parlade for controversial statement on Liza Soberano despite censure from Defense chief

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Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade, Jr., spokesman of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 23) — A military official known to tag government critics as communist rebels said he will not apologize for his controversial statement warning Liza Soberano about getting involved with Gabriela, saying he only wanted to protect the actress from the group's supposed ties to insurgents' armed struggle.

Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade, Jr., spokesman of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), said he sought to step in to defend the 22-year-old star from netizens' bashing after she took part in a Gabriela webinar to discuss women's rights.

"I don’t need to apologize. Why should I apologize? I don’t have any intention of hurting Liza Soberano," Parlade told CNN Philippines' The Source, saying people should read his full statement to understand his point.

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In an online event with Gabriela Youth, Soberano encouraged women and influencers to be vocal about different issues.

"Definitely, I did not red-tag Liza Soberano. In fact, I came in to defend her position na it’s okay to be an activist and to defend women's rights. It’s not right that we don't inform Liza Soberano about the nature of Gabriela Youth to which she was engaging with during the webinar," the military official said.

READ: Liza Soberano to sustain pro-women push 'without fear' despite red-tagging issue

Parlade is known for accusing politicians and state critics of colluding with the Communist Party of the Philippines, dubbing them as front organizations to recruit comrades in battle.

There were mixed reactions to Parlade's October 21 statement, which started with an appeal not to tag Soberano as a terrorist and that the she was "not yet" a member of the armed rebel group New People's Army. He went on to claim that Gabriela had a "hidden violent agenda" and that Soberano still has a chance to cut the ties or else she risks a violent death similar to former Gabriela Youth leader Josephine Anne Lapira, who died in 2017 in a encounter between NPA rebels and the military.

He gave the same warning to Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray while red-tagging the sister of actress Angel Locsin, Ella Colmenares. He alleged that Locsin's sibling is working with the NPA in Quezon – something she denied.

READ: Lawmakers to AFP official: Stop 'red-tagging' celebrities, others who speak up on women's issues

However, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana stepped in to say that Parlade should have stayed out of the issue. "Kung wala kang ebidensya [If you don't have evidence], do not talk about it," he told reporters on Friday.

Lorenzana, Parlade's boss, said he will ask for an NTF-ELCAC meeting to discuss the next steps to address the growing issue.

AFP chief Gilbert Gapay pointed out that there's nothing wrong with Soberano's activities as long as she does not "bear arms." He added that Parlade's remarks are a "general reminder" for people not to resort to violence in advancing their advocacies.

Parlade said he understood that Soberano was simply lobbying for the rights of women and children – an advocacy that does not automatically make her a communist.

He said he opted for a public statement because he wanted to inform as many people as possible about what he called the "dual tactics" of Gabriela and the Communist Party – something that will not be accomplished had he opted to privately reach out to the Kapamilya actress' camp.

"If I wrote it otherwise, we woudn't be here... There will be no controversy. That message will get lost somewhere," Parlade added. "That's exactly the purpose of our message: it’s not a threat, it’s a warning."

Netizens and some senators took offense to those comments, but Soberano's lawyer Juanito Lim has reached out to thank Parlade for the clarification.

The NTF-ELCAC spokesperson also said the body may issue another statement to address such misconceptions.