In the last few days, attention is drawn to a warning or veiled threat given by Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade, Jr., AFP Southern Command Chief, to a Filipino actress Liza Soberano for participating in a forum organized by Gabriela, an activist group that the general considers to be communist or leaning towards its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), if not outright adherent.
General Parlade warns Soberano that she might end up like Josephine Anne Lapira, a UP student idealist who joined the NPA and was killed in an encounter with the military.
Subsequent disclosures show that the military general has also tagged two other celebrities, Angel Locsin and Catriona Gray, as red-blemished.
Ben Punongbayan, Chairman and Founder of Buklod National Movement, grants that Parlade may have been anxious and too dedicated to his job, a predisposition that could have led him to do what he did.
But Punongbayan believes that General Parlade got into a realm that should have been completely taboo to the military. His characterization of the three celebrities is a political issue that he has no business dealing with.
“That is a matter that belongs to the country’s political and civilian leaderships’ responsibility. He is not even the Chief of Staff of the AFP for that matter. He must be gagged. Otherwise, our political leadership is allowing the military to meddle into what is clearly political and doing so may lead to a government being led or influenced by the military. General Parlade’s actions may seem to be innocuous at this time, but it is dangerous and must be stopped right away.”
Furthermore, as a military man, his upbringing is to follow orders and as such he would rather see a society of followers. Artists, on the other hand, thrive on critical thinking rather than docile acquiescence.
Democracy does not mean everybody follows what the military says. Rather democracy is plurality and diversity.
The Philippines, like other democratic countries, has to distinguish between matters that are of military and those that are of political and therefore civilian concerns. “Otherwise, if left to gather its own momentum, it is not inconceivable that the country may insidiously slide into a military government that was common in South and Central America several decades ago and which just led to miseries in the life of the people there”, Punongbayan said.
Punongbayan accepted that the NPA problem—which has been described as the longest ongoing insurgency in the world today—must have given the military a great amount of continuing frustration. He believes though that at this stage, the problem no longer has a military solution. The government must veer towards an economic solution. The military knows the geographical areas where the NPA has a sway. Those areas must be selected for direct and specific economic improvement.
“For one, the government must build roads that link those communities to a highway and thereby help these communities transport their goods to the markets and do so economically. But more than this, the government must select those communities as the initial recipients of an unconditional guaranteed minimum income program for poor families at the poverty level, at an initial monthly amount that can decently support the basic living needs of each family in those communities. These two action steps alone will undoubtedly lead to the NPA to fade away before long”, Punongbayan added.