Lorenzana convenes gov’t body vs communist rebels over Liza Soberano red-tagging issue

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Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 23) — Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has called for a meeting among military and security officials as the state panel fighting anti-communist rebels is in hot water for allegedly red-tagging actress Liza Soberano and other celebrities.

Lorenzana told reporters on Friday that he wants the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict or NTF-ELCAC to discuss its next steps after making the headlines this week due to the statement of their spokesman, Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade, Jr.

"I am convening a meeting with these people, si Gen. Parlade, Gen. Esperon, at saka 'yung members ng ELCAC," Lorenzana told reporters on Friday, referring to National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon.

"Because of this brouhaha na lumalaki, I think we should talk mostly kung ano ba talagang magandang gawin," he added.

[Translation: I am convening a meeting with these people, si Gen. Parlade, Gen. Esperon, and the members of ELCAC. Because of this brouhaha that's growing even bigger, I think we should talk about what we should do next.]

Lorenzana seemed not to agree with Parlade's Wednesday remark telling people not to red-tag Soberano following her speaking engagement in a webinar organized by Gabriela Women's Party, a group which he said had "dual tactics" to recruit fighters for the New People's Army.

READ: Angel Locsin tells military official: Difference in opinion does not give you the right to 'red tag,' endanger lives

Parlade went on to warn Soberano and even Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray, saying they should disengage from Gabriela as they could find themselves recruited into the armed rebellion and get killed during military encounters. He defended his stance on Friday, saying he simply wanted to inform the 22-year-old ABS-CBN star about the supposedly veiled intentions of the women's party.

"Although the ELCAC is a very good idea, kung minsan hindi mo naman pwedeng... shotgun ka na [sometimes you can't just be trigger-happy like a shotgun]. You should be selective," Lorenzana said regarding Parlade.

"'Wag mong sabihin na leftist 'yan, NPA 'yan, dapat may ebidensya tayo [You can't just say that person is leftist and NPA, we should have evidence first]. Otherwise, just keep quiet."

NTF-ELCAC is has been accused of red-tagging critics of the Duterte administration.

President Rodrigo Duterte created the anti-communist task force in 2018, which provides a "whole-of-nation" approach in curbing armed rebel groups and is assigned to create a National Peace Framework.

AFP Chief Gilbert Gapay said separately that there was nothing wrong with Soberano's move to discuss women's rights with Gabriela.

"Okay lang naman 'yun if you voice out your sentiments for the greater good of society, but once you bear arms and you join the armed component of the CPP-NPA and fight the government, iba na 'yun," Gapay said. "We really prohibit the use of violence in advancing changes in our society."

Duterte, a self-declared socialist when he ran as President, has been in an on-and-off peace deal with the local communist party in the past four years. He walked away from peace talks with communist rebels in 2017 as both sides accused each other of ceasefire violations.

The two panels are considering returning to the negotiating table, but Duterte and CPP founding chairman Jose Maria Sison could not agree on contentious issues, including the venue for the meetings.

RELATED: Communist party founder: Duterte 'sabotaged' peace negotiations