Rejoinder to Parlade

In a statement released to the Philippine News Agency (PNA) last Sunday, February 23, following the shooting-to-death of a certain Antonio Benson, aka “Hazel” and “Pita”, by the New People’s Army (NPA), Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade, Jr., chief of the Philippine Army’s Southern Luzon Command (SOLCOM), named “Karapatan, NUPL, Gabriela and others” accountable for the actions of the NPA. He also said that “the government will do everything in its authority to give justice to former NPA rebels who were mercilessly killed by their comrades”.

Is Parlade talking about a government that is in accord with the precepts of democracy, or the tyrannical dispensation that President Rodrigo Duterte and the military have instituted in this country? It is obvious in the words of Parlade that he is referring to the government of Duterte which is contemptuous of decency and existing laws of society. And what a perverted sense in seeking justice for the death of NPA surrenderees? General Parlade is holding Karapatan, NUPL, Gabriela, et al, responsible for an offense committed by the NPA! Can justice be truly served if it is not anchored on our constitutional justice and penal system? The Bill of Rights of our own Constitution speaks of procedural due process and the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. But Parlade had already declared Karapatan and the rest guilty for the death of “Pita” and other NPA surrenderees! Is this the kind of justice that he wants to pervade?

The General also tattled about the oft-repeated propaganda lie of the police and military tagging Karapatan and the rest of progressive organizations as “fronts” of the CPP-NPA-NDF. We vehemently deny this baseless and malicious accusation that is intended to condition the mind of the people to justify hideous acts that the police and military may bear upon us in the future. Like the mass organization of peasants who are fighting for genuine land reform, of workers who are fighting for higher wages and security of tenure, and of women fighting for women’s rights, etc., Karapatan has also an advocacy to fight for, like the promotion, respect and defense of human rights and the pursuit of a just and lasting peace. There is no rhyme and reason to call these organizations fighting for their own sectoral interests and advocacies as “fronts” of the CPP-NPA-NDF or any organization. Further, Parlade accuses us of providing the NPA information about the location and activities of NPA surrenderees. How can we do that? Our hands are full with fact-finding missions looking into extrajudicial killings, physical injuries, warrantless arrests and searches and other serious human rights abuses of the AFP and PNP in the province making it impossible for us to perform sleuthing or detective work for the NPA apart from the fact that providing information to the NPA is not, and will never be, a part of our task. We emphasize categorically that we do not have any hierarchical, organizational or integral relations with the NPA.

Parlade also carped about Karapatan et al having hitmen. NO! We don’t have hitmen, much less NPA hitmen. It is the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) which form, maintain and coddle hitmen or death squads. These death squads are the ones responsible for the merciless and unsolved killings of activists and innocent people in Sorsogon like the murder of Nelly Bagasala, Auditor of the Sorsogon People’s Organization (SPO), and Ryan Hubilla, senior high school student and member of the youth organization Anakbayan. Nelly and Ryan were defenseless and unarmed when they were treacherously attacked by the death squad of the police and military last year at Seabreeze Homes, Cabid-an, Sorsogon City.

Parlade interrogates us on our mission and advocacy and who are we protecting. On this we say: Karapatan is a national alliance for the advancement of people’s rights guided by the principles embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Geneva Conventions, Bill of Rights of the Philippine Constitution and other instruments of international law. Its sworn duty is to defend and protect the rights of the people and to assist victims of human rights violations. It is also our duty to monitor and record compliance and violation of the laws on human rights especially now that the Philippines is in a state of war. Hence, it is also our prime duty to safeguard the rights of the people and the civilian population under conditions of war.

It is utterly absurd for General Parlade to question our advocacy because we do not condemn the killing of Antonio Benson and other NPA surrenderees. In the generally accepted protocols of war, there is a term called legitimate target. A legitimate target is a member of an armed organization which is a party to an armed conflict. The death of a legitimate target, with some exceptions like when he or she is captured alive, is a legitimate, or valid, act of war. No member of a party to an armed conflict could be held responsible for the death of a legitimate target. When the military or police kill an NPA in an encounter, they have no responsibility for the death because it is a legitimate act of war and the casualty is a legitimate target. The same holds true if the NPA attack the military and police and their assets. Plain citizens, civilians and non-combatants cannot be considered as legitimate targets.

It is well-known that Benson was an NPA. When he was still a member of the NPA, he was a legitimate target of the police and military. But, when he surrendered to the military and joined the latter in its combat and intelligence operations against the NPA, he became a legitimate target of the NPA. It is also absurd for Parlade to say that Benson was a non-combatant. Benson was armed and was with his band of armed surrenderees when he was attacked in the cockpit at Colambis. He even managed to return fire. There’s no way he could be called a non-combatant. He should have been a non-combatant if he chose to lead a normal and quiet life after surrender, with no connection to either side.

Parlade also accuses us of weaponizing the law. We take exception to this sinister accusation. It is Parlade and the AFP together with the PNP who are weaponizing the law through Memorandum Order 32 (November 22, 2018) and Executive Order 70 (December 4, 2018). Aside from this, they have all the firearms and wherewithals to flout, defy and make a mockery of the law.

Memorandum Order 32 directs the AFP and the PNP to implement measures to suppress and prevent lawless violence in Samar, Negros Island and Bicol. Executive Order 70 institutionalized the Aquino III counterinsurgency “Whole-of-Nation” Approach and created the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) which put the entire civilian bureaucracy and all local government units under the control of the military, and so, a government run by the military through its Joint Task Force AFP-PNP. All the harassments, threats and intimidation, warrantless arrests and searches, fabricated charges through fake testimonies, and extrajudicial killings (EJK) suffered by innocent people and activists of nationalist organizations are committed with impunity under the above-named orders.

Here in Sorsogon, red-tagging, guilt-by-association, trumped up charges, EJKs and the threat of EJK are daily fare for activists of the national democratic movement. And now, Parlade is accusing us for the death of NPA surrenderees! Accuser, judge, executioner: this is the core doctrine of all despotic regimes in the history of governments and societies, the same doctrine that guides the Duterte regime in its implementation of MO 32 and EO 70. Lt. General Antonio Parlade, Jr. is, presently, the accuser, judge and would-be executioner of the activists in the Province of Sorsogon.

Lastly, Parlade states menacingly that “it is only a matter of time before justice will catch up against . . .who are the brains behind these atrocities”. By “justice” in the context of Parlade’s view means the killing of activists of the legal democratic organizations. To this we say: activists will be killed not for the reason that Parlade and his minions allege but because of their advocacy to fight for a Philippine society that is peaceful, humane, democratic, just and free.



Guillermo Abraham
Sorosogon People's Organization spokesperson