Media groups on Thursday criticized Southern Luzon Command (Solcom) chief Lieutenant General Antonio Parlade Jr. after he lambasted a justice beat reporter on social media over a story he claimed was "propaganda."
In separate statements, the groups — the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) and the Justice and Court Reporters Association (JUCRA) — said Parlade's behavior shows the danger of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, the legality of which is being challenged with the Supreme Court.
In a Facebook post, Parlade denounced Tetch Torres-Tupas of Inquirer.net for her story on the two members of the Aeta community who sought help from the Supreme Court after being allegedly tortured by state forces.
Congratulations for a sloppy work Tetch Torres-Tupaz of Inquirer.net. You did not even bother to check the side of the...Posted by Antonio Parlade on Tuesday, February 2, 2021
Parlade branded Tupaz's reporting as "sloppy work" as he denied that the torture incident took place.
"Congratulations for a sloppy work Tetch Torres-Tupas of Inquirer.net. You did not even bother to check the side of the AFP and gov't if what you are reporting is true or FAKE. Propagandista. No such thing happened. That unit is not even there but in Davao," Parlade said.
When asked by a netizen if charges could be filed against Torres-Tupaz, Parlade replied: "Aiding the terrorists by spreading lies? Puede."
The NUJP expressed alarm over Parlade's remark, saying his behavior is exactly what petitioners against the anti-terrorism law are concerned about.
"While the Office of the Solicitor General has yet to comment on whether Parlade's previous post should be considered an official government communication, it cannot be denied that it, as well as the Facebook post against Torres-Tupas, are threats directed not only at those questioning the ATA but also at those covering those questioning the controversial law," the NUJP said.
The group said Torres-Tupas, like other reporters covering the justice beat who wrote about the petition-in-intervention filed by Aetas Japer Gurung and Junior Ramos, reported on the filing of the petition and not the August 2020 incident that Parlade and the Philippine military are disputing.
"Torres-Tupas was simply writing about the fact that the petition was filed and recounting the allegations made in that petition," it added.
The group said Parlade's remarks against the journalist "could be viewed as a fair comment on her work and, perhaps, a lack of familiarity with how stories about petitions and complaints are written."
The NUJP also said Parlade seemed to have failed to read the article because he accused the reporter of using Human Rights Watch and alternative media outfit Kodao Productions as her sources of the story.
The source of Torres-Tupaz's story was the petition-in-intervention filed before the Supreme Court on February 2.
Meanwhile, Parlade, in one of his comments on his Facebook post, said he would not stop until Torres-Tupaz and Inquirer.net answer him.
"Hindi kita titigilan Tetch Tupas hanggang hindi mo sinasagot ang tanong ko. Inquirer.net kasama ka sa sasagot nito. Nakakahiya kayo sa mga kasamahan niyo sa media," he said.
According to the NUJP, the national government's inaction on the threat against journalists as well as on activists "means government consent and even endorsement of those actions."
It said it belies the claim that the highly-criticized law does not target critics of the government.
"The government has repeatedly issued reassurances that the law will not be used to stifle dissent or to clamp down on the press. But actions and statements by people like Parlade, who will be tasked with implementing the Anti-Terrorism Law, speak louder than those press statements," the NUJP said.
The Supreme Court started the oral arguments on the law on Tuesday.
Retired SC justices, lawmakers, activists, students, artists, journalists, labor groups, and many others filed petitions against the anti-terrorism law, fearing it could be used to violate basic rights and legitimize supposed state attacks against government critics and activists.
JUCRA, meanwhile, also came to the defense of Torres-Tupas, a member of the group. "Parlade did not only red-tag Tupas, he also threatened her with prosecution just because she did her job, which all of us in JUCRA do every day," it said.
"As Parlade surely knows, providing material support to terrorists is a crime under Section 12 of the Anti-Terror Law, people accused of which are liable as 'principals' and punishable by at least 12 years up to life imprisonment," it added.
The group said Parlade's social media post was an example of what the petitioners against anti-terrorism law claim as "evidence of a credible threat of prosecution."
JUCRA also questioned if Parlade was insinuating that justice reporters are supporters of terrorists, adding that his actions have put them in actual harm.
"JUCRA members also reported the Aetas' petition for intervention, based on the same Supreme Court pleading. Should we all wait for a threat from Parlade, too?" the group said.
The group said Parlade must apologize to Torres-Tupas.
"If not, may the people in power take notice of this threat and realize there is a deliberate attempt to use the law to chill our freedom and right to report," it said. —KBK, GMA News