Karapatan raises concern to CHR on another of Parlade's red-tagging tirade

Karapatan raised concerns to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on yet another red-tagging tirade of Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade, commanding chief of Armed Forces of the Philippines Southern Luzon Command and spokesperson of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, against the group and its human rights workers.

In a letter addressed to CHR Chairperson Jose Luis Martin "Chito" Gascon, Palabay stated how Parlade, in his column “The ATL and the CPP funding scam” at The Manila Times published on February 5, 2021, made again a list of false accusations against Karapatan, including labeling it as a front of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). The said column was published amid the ongoing oral arguments at the Supreme Court on the 37 petitions questioning the constitutionality of Republic Act 11479 or the Philippine Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.

"We believe that such forms of disinformation and false accusations of Lt. Gen. Parlade are tantamount to red-tagging, or as referred to by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet as forms of ‘labelling individuals and groups as communists or terrorists’ being a ‘persistent and powerful threat to civil society and freedom of expression” in the Philippines,’" Palabay wrote.

Karapatan said that it is a non-governmental organization duly registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission and accredited by the CHR, complying with all the organizational and financial requirements set by the government agency.

"In fact, in the interest of truth and transparency since Lt. Gen. Parlade has been repeatedly engaging in such false accusations, Karapatan participated in in-depth financial audits conducted by Viva Salud, in the external audit conducted by the Belgian government and in the joint follow-up mission of the Belgian government’s departments on Development Cooperation and Foreign Affairs," Karapatan said in the letter, in relation to Parlade’s erroneous claims on the funding for Karapatan from the Belgian government. No financial irregularities were found during the said audits.

Karapatan also called another" bare-faced lie" claims by Parlade that Karapatan is "pushing" children to become NPA members. The organization performs roles which are mandated by domestic and international human rights instruments, which includes providing paralegal assistance to victims of human rights violations and/or their families.

Palabay also hit back at Parlade by raising that the former was leading a rally against the Anti-Terrorism Act. "Since when is 'leading' or participating in a rally regarding any issue illegal or wrong? Since when has it been considered that the exercise of a fundamental right to exercise freedom of peaceful assembly and expression is a valid 'deduction' that one is a participant in a 'CPP funding scam?' Are these statements and allegations made by Lt. Gen. Parlade proof of arbitrariness of interpretation by law enforcement and security sector officials like him of the Anti-Terrorism Act, when he bandies lies and make accusations of organizations and individuals of being terrorists without admissible, competent and credible evidence?" the letter stated.

Palabay reiterated that the dangerous practice of red-tagging and disinformation by government actors, have raised threats on Karapatan and its human rights workers.

"We have lost 13 of our human rights workers - who were killed after such forms of red-tagging and threats - due to this practice under the current administration. We cannot let another threat against our organization go unnoticed," the group said.