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[EDITORIAL] Who’s afraid of Liza Soberano?

By Tanya Lara Published Oct 22, 2020 8:31 am

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has a budget of P186 billion this year. But it seems they’re getting their intelligence from YouTube, judging by AFP Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr.’s actions today.  

When actress Liza Soberano, 22, spoke about women’s rights and against abuses, she probably never thought she would be labeled a communist by the country’s military. 

Was it the medium or the message? 

One wonders if the military’s counter-insurgency intelligence is going to get any better with a budget of P203 billion in 2021. Perhaps next year they will scour kindergartens for students to red tag.

The online forum where she spoke was sponsored by Gabriela Youth, a political organization of women students from universities around the country. 

They’re outspoken, yes, but hardly criminals that merit red-tagging just by association. They’re young women in universities working towards their dreams, and that includes rights for women and a safe environment for all. 

Soberano said during the Oct. 13 forum, “I find it so unfair that we women have to go out every day in fear of getting catcalled, in fear of dressing a certain way and getting called out for the way we’re dressed.”

Liza Soberano during the Gabriela Youth forum as she talked about the threat of rape she received online after she spoke her mind earlier this year. She filed a case against the netizen. 

“I fear that my nieces and my future children won’t be able to go out in a safe environment…As a woman, as a Filipino artist, I think that women and influencers alike should start speaking up.”

There was nothing incendiary about what she said. 

There was nothing new about it either. 

These are things that all women know, and fear, whether for themselves or their daughters. 

In their own homes, one in four Filipino women, aged 15 to 49, has experienced physical, emotional or sexual violence by their husband or partner. That’s one in four! Women are humiliated or abused in their schools, in their places of work and on the streets every day. 

We can only wish that more young people of influence like Soberano would use their voices to spotlight what’s wrong with our society; that all university students learn to think critically and fight for what’s right. 

Yet a vlogger, “a certified DDS” in her YouTube channel description, uploaded a reaction video titled “Liza Soberano, miyembro na ng New People’s Army?” 

Of course there was that question mark at the end for future deniability. Of course social media latched on to it until, apparently, all this nonsense chatter reached the military. 

The AFP has a budget of P186 billion this year. And they’re getting intelligence from YouTube?

There was nothing incendiary about what she said. There was nothing new about it either. These are things that all women know—and fear.

In a country where, for the past seven months of COVID hell, you have been told every Monday night by the President that the NPAs are a huge threat to national security—wouldn’t the military be overzealous in red-tagging people over the most innocuous comments? Why shouldn’t they when the President asked for an increase in the AFP budget, which Congress happily obliged, to the tune of P203 billion for 2021. 

Red-tagging—long employed by authoritarian governments to silence dissent—is a threat to democracy today as it silenced critics during the Marcos dictatorship.  

As if red-tagging Soberano wasn’t enough, Parlade also warned that she might end up dead like Josephine Anne Lapira, who was killed during a military “encounter” with NPAs in Batangas in 2017. 

Threats are nothing new to the red-tag-happy Parlade. In 2018, he named 18 Metro Manila schools as breeding grounds for the Communist Party of the Philippines (CCP). 

Back then, the AFP budget was P195 billion and almost half of it was spent “fighting the communists,” which at the time had fewer than 5,000 armed fighters (it had 3,700 at the end of 2017). 

Media outlets pointed out that Parlade’s list included a non-existent Caloocan City College. Two days after Parlade released his list to media, the AFP said the list was “still being validated.” 

One wonders if the military’s counter-insurgency intelligence is going to get any better with a budget of P203 billion in 2021. 

Perhaps next year they will scour kindergartens for students to red tag. 

Banner photo from Liza Soberano’s Instagram account.