"Our own military leaders have developed a taste for what we now call red-tagging."
The infamous US senator Joseph McCarthy stoked fears that communists had infiltrated every aspect of American life, and bullied, lied and smeared his way to power in the early 1950s, destroying thousands of careers and lives along the way.
Behind closed doors, McCarthy accused his targets of being communist spies or sympathizers, smearing them with questionable or no evidence at all. Thousands of people lost their jobs simply by being associated—often unfairly—to communist organizations.
Today, McCarthyism, which takes its name from the US senator, is used to describe the practice of making accusations of subversion or treason without proper regard for evidence.
If this is all beginning to sound familiar, perhaps it is because our own military leaders have developed a taste for what we now call red-tagging.
Last week, South Luzon Command chief Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr., urged actress Liza Soberano to cut her ties with the feminist group Gabriela Women’s Party because it has links to communists.
He did this after Soberano, herself the target of a “rape joke,” spoke out against sexual abuse on social media in an online seminar organized by the youth arm of Gabriela.
Parlade, the spokesman of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, said celebrities such as Soberano and Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray should be “educated” about the “hidden violent agenda” of Makibaka, which he said was an underground group hiding under Gabriela.
Gabriela party-list Rep. Arlene Brosas accused Parlade of “rabidly red-tagging” Soberano and other female celebrities and influencers who are taking a stand against the “macho-fascism under the Duterte administration.”
Brosas accused Parlade of “maliciously associating” the actress with the armed movement when she only spoke up for the victims of gender-based violence and abuse.
In response, Parlade warned Soberano that she could end up dead in a military encounter, like Josephine Anne Lapira, who was deputy secretary general of Gabriela Youth in UP Manila. In a Facebook post, he said:
“Let us not red-tag Liza Soberano. It’s not fair to her. She is merely supporting advocacy for women’s rights. She has to be protected in the exercise of her rights. Is she an NPA? No, of course not. Not yet. So let’s help educate her and the other celebrity targets of Malayang Kilusan ng Bagong Kababaihan (MAKIBAKA), the Underground Mass Organization hiding under Gabriela Women’s Party.
“So, Rep. Arlene Brosas and Gabriela, shame on you if you haven’t informed your recruits about your hidden violent agenda.”
He then cited the case of Lapira, whom he described as a defender of women’s rights, “even against sexual predators among her comrades in the NPA (New People’s Army) unit that she joined.” Then he added: “It was too late, she is dead.”
Amid the backlash over these remarks, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said if security officials have no evidence against people they believe to have taken up arms against the government, they should just shut up.
“My thoughts about that is if there is no evidence yet, do not talk about it,” Lorenzana said.
Ironically, this was a lesson McCarthy learned decades ago when he accused the US Army of being “soft on communists.”
After several weeks of hearings in which the lawyer for the US Army, Joseph N. Welch, blunted McCarthy’s agitated attacks, the senator took aim at a young associate in Welch’s law firm, accusing him of being a long-time member of an organization that was a “legal arm of the Communist Party.” A stunned Welch struggled to maintain his composure, then looked at McCarthy and declared: “Until this moment, senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last?”
We might ask the same of Parlade and other red-taggers who behave as if it is perfectly acceptable to portray those who speak out against injustice as communists or their sympathizers, without a shred of evidence.