LT. GEN. Antonio Parlade, the controversial spokesman of the government’s anti-insurgency (translation: anti-communism) task force, has this not-so-enviable knack for getting into political, even theological, knot, every time he opens his mouth,or wields his unwieldy ‘culebra roja’, as the Chabacano would refer to it.
The latest of which is about his avant garde theory on the pantry concept that is taking many parts of the pandemic-besieged communities in the country by a storm. Parlade perhaps fears this could be a perfect storm that could potentially blow his client or principal out of his comfort zone earlier than scheduled.
He thinks the Devil, or Satan, may have something to do with it, a virtual mental replay of an incident in the Garden of Eden where the Serpent tempted Eve to bite off the forbidden fruit. Parlade believes whoever got the idea of a community pantry must have been given to her by the Devil himself, not exactly on a silver platter.
Parlade got, at least, two things wrong. First off, the ‘fruit’ was not an apple. It was simply described as “the fruit of the tree in the midst of the Garden”. Second off, the Serpent didn’t pick the ‘fruit’ and hand it to Eve. Eve, after buying into the Devil’s marketing pitch, helped herself, gave some to her husband, and the rest is a cliché.
In other words, Parlade is engaged in a continuing heresy and it’s not easy to tell where he got his fake news. Definitely, not from a Sunday School class. Alexander Pope had long warned that a little learning can be a dangerous thing. Look what Parlade’s bet has done on the rising of pantries in the name of communitarianism, not communism as he believes it could be some front of the ideology.
While at it, the Eden Incident is not just about rebellion; it’s essentially failure of leadership, an important moral. Parlade can revisit his flawed facts about the Devil and the Apple in the light of the pantry response to the paltry performance of the current administration he serves in the time of the pandemic. Had Adam not goofed off on the job, mankind might have been spared all of its troubles, past and present, COVID 19 and all its adversities, including Parlade’s mistaken notion that appearance may not be reality as far as pantries are concerned. The recent call for Duterte’s resignation didn’t exist in a vacuum. On second thought, perhaps it did arise out of the widespread perception that there is a vacuum in leadership.
He may also discover that paranoia is a tragic offshoot of the Eden bite-taste, usually seen among those who feel insecure about their high perches in society or government where they think might or clout, not right, should call the shots.
In light of Parlade’s shot at the bow of the pantry ship, Sen. Leila de Lima has a very interesting theological theory herself. Satan, she said, doesn’t leave Malacanang. Whoever thought that the sacred place is the Devil’s workshop? Of course, she was just practicing (stretching?) her metaphoric skills. It’s anhyperbole, to be exact. Satan as Duterte and vice versa? Nope. That’s giving too much credit, or blame, to the Devil for the dire situation that Filipinos are chafing under the pandemic.
Or De Lima perhaps is obliquely saying that the some high leaders in the land are channeling Satan, which simply means “the accuser”.
We know where the detained senator is coming from. Her reaction was more visceral than cerebral, emotional than existential. A few days after she pulverized Parlade’s concept, she showed signs of cardiac issues, she had to be confined in hospital for three days.
“Never can true reconciliation grow where wounds of deadly hate has pierced so deep”, John Milton wrote in Paradise Lost. The instant flash of De Lima extending her hands during Duterte’s inaugural State of the Nation address and the latter acknowledging them vividly crosses the mind. It turned out, it was just for a show. Now the real story has unfolded for many years now with De Lima still in languishing in jail despite the alleged lack of evidence and constant pressure from international leaders.
Parlade’s continuing red-tagging campaign and public comments about contemporary developments he thinks may be relevant to what he does have earned the opprobrium of the Senate that eventually called for his censure. The guy remains unperturbed. He has even called senators of the realm ‘stupid’ for proposing to defund the task force is heading over what many say were not only indiscreet but inappropriate mouthfuls for an officer and a gentleman. (Sun Tzu said you don’t expect the Army to observe the rules of etiquette). Of course, it was a case of tit-for-tat. A senator started it, Parlade was just too willing to oblige to return the favor.
In the end, it’s better to look at the humorous side of Parlade, even if theologically unsound. He may not be on the detail, he’s on the bigger picture where the details become a blur. A choice of one will compromise the other. And never underestimate Parlade’s philosophical perspective. Like Arthur Koestler, he probably believes also that Satan is a fanatical devotee of logic and reads Machiavelli and Marx, too.
To him, the pantry slogan “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need”, may ring an alarming bell. Too alarming, given the rumblings on the ground.