MANILA - Malacañang on Thursday urged actress Liza Soberano and former Miss Universe Catriona Gray to be wary of being taken advantage of by Left-leaning groups while pushing for women's rights.
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque made comment after a military official warned the 2 celebrities against supposedly forging ties with the communist New People's Army.
"Pinag-iingatan lang nila na baka mamaya magamit sila ng Left. Pero naintindihan naman po ng Hukbong Sandatahan na sila'y nag-a-advocate ng karapatan ng kababaihan," Roque told reporters.
(They are just taking caution that Soberano and Gray might be used by the Left. But the Armed Forces understands that they are just advocating for the rights of women.)
"Pero siyempre, ingat din po, kasi... ang mga Maoist sa Pilipinas, kung may puwedeng pagsamantalahan, e pagsasamantalahan nila," he added.
(But of course, take care also because Maoists in the Philippines take advantage whenever there is a chance.)
Accusations linking Soberano, 22, to the NPA came her participation in a webinar organized by Gabriela Youth, where she tearfully urged fellow influencers to speak up on issues affecting women and children.
In a statement posted on the Facebook page of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) on Wednesday, Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. said Soberano "is not an NPA" because she is merely advocating for women's rights.
Parlade, however, also told Soberano to cut her ties with Gabriela Youth.
"Liza Soberano, there' s still a chance to abdicate that group. If you don't, you will suffer the same fate as Josephine Anne Lapira @ELLA, former Deputy Secretary General of Gabriela Youth of UP, Manila and defender of women's rights, even against sexual predators amongst her comrades in the NPA unit she joined which is clearly stated in her handwritten letter addressed to a certain @EMIL," he claimed.
He issued a similar warning to Gray, Miss Universe 2018.
"The choice is yours Liza. And so with you Catriona. Don't follow the path Ka Ella Colmenares (Locsin) took in the underground and NPA Quezon. I am sure Angel Locsin and Neri Colmenares will not tell you this," he alleged.
Membership in communist organizations in the country is not illegal after the Anti-Subversion Act was repealed during the administration of former President Fidel Ramos.
"The challenge before those who accuse is to prove allegations of any illegal act before fair and competent courts," Commission on Human Rights spokesperson Atty. Jacqueline Ann de Guia said in May.
The camp of Soberano has denounced the red-tagging of the actress. In a statement, her legal counsel Atty. Juanito Lim Jr. said the actress was merely “expressing her love and respect for women and children” because this is her personal advocacy.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros, also an advocate for women's rights, admonished Parlade not to use his powers to threaten Soberano and Gray.
"By silencing them, pinapalampas mo ang karahasan, panggagahasa at pangaabuso na nararanasan ng napakaraming Pilipino. This is a shame to your rank and to the (Philippine Military Academy)," Hontiveros said in a statement.
(By silencing them, you are tolerating violence, rape and abuse being experienced by many Filipinos.)
She told Parlade she "will not forget" his remarks, reminding him they will cross paths again in the Commission on Appointments in the future. "Hindi ko ito palalampasin (I will not let this pass). See you in the next round."
The senator assured Soberano and Gray of her support even as she told them, "It is difficult and painful to be at the frontlines fighting beside persons oppressed by a norm that advocates rape, murder and exploitation."
"But every time you speak up, another girl becomes braver and another life is saved... This is your constitutional right; don't be afraid... I salute and embrace you," Hontiveros said.
- With a report from Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News