Lawyers, journalists call out Parlade comment vs. reporter as 'credible threat' under anti-terrorism law

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A rally against the Anti-Terrorism Law held in January 2021. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 4) — A number of groups on Thursday said a military official's recent prosecution threat against a reporter justifies arguments that the controversial Anti-Terrorism Act can be weaponized to target criticism and dissent.

In separate statements, lawyers, journalists and human rights advocates condemned Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade's comment on social media that suggested a lawsuit against reporter Tetch Torres-Tupas for "aiding the terrorists by spreading lies."

The general, who is known for red-tagging a number of personalities, slammed Torres-Tupas' story on aetas seeking help from the Supreme Court against the anti-terrorism law.

"Had Parlade also done his research and listened to the oral arguments, he would have known that posts like these are what petitioners claim as evidence of a credible threat of prosecution - threat that can warrant a judicial review of the law he seeks to protect and promote," said the Justice and Court Reporters' Association.

The National Union of People's Lawyers, which represents some of the petitioners against the anti-terrorism law, said the news article used statements from official documents and submissions.

"In a grotesque way, he is actually reinforcing and validating the myriad of objections and criticisms against the ATA," said Edre Olalia, NUPL President. also released a statement decrying Parlade's remarks, adding that it "unequivocally" supports its reporter and upholds her integrity.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court began the first round of oral arguments against the anti-terrorism law — the most challenged law in the country's recent history. During the discussion, human rights lawyer Chel Diokno hit a provision that frames terrorism based on a person's "state of mind."

He referred to Section 4 of the law which states that advocacy, protest, dissent, and similar exercises of civil and political rights will not be considered terrorism as long as they are “not intended to cause death or serious physical harm to a person, to endanger a person’s life, or to create a serious risk to public safety." The provision has been a primary cause of concern among the law's critics.

"(Parlade's post) also, rather clearly, shows the true intent of the terror law: to clamp down on our freedoms, and to threaten anyone that stands in the way of this fascist regime," said human rights group KARAPATAN.

There are 37 sets of petitioners composed of framers of the Constitution, lawyers, human rights advocates, and individuals who claim to have been victims of authorities’ red-tagging. Seven representatives presented their case during the three-hour oral arguments, while Solicitor General Jose Calida and the government's lawyers are expected to defend the measure when the discussion resumes on Feb. 9.