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Lawmaker finds ‘no value’ in Sotto’s red-tag probe

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A party-list legislator who represents the education sector on Thursday hit Senate President Vicente Sotto III for “finding value” in a military warning against female celebrities working with leftist groups.

ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro said Sotto was “apparently using the Senate inquiry allegedly to justify the red-tagging against us and other progressive individuals.”

“First, this is not a warning but a threat and red tagging. That is why I don’t believe that it is of value,”Castro said, referring to Sotto.

The military, meanwhile, maintained its attack on the legal left, saying they were collaborating with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA).

Appearing a second time before the Senate hearing on red tagging, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. pointed to more activists who ended up with the NPA and eventually held high positions in the CPP.

Esperon, vice chairman of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), said the statements of these witnesses clearly showed that Makabayan bloc members were involved in the recruitment of members for the NPA.

“They are living proof of the indisputable ties between the legal fronts and the NPA. Therefore, the Makabayan bloc cannot deny their complicity in the armed struggle,” Esperon said in a statement.

On Wednesday, Sotto said a warning from Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade could be valid after former Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Teddy Casiño told a Senate inquiry that the NPA normally recruits activists.

During the same Senate hearing, Esperon told Casino: “You cannot deny responsibility for the recruitment of our youth by the NPA. It is your front organizations that eradicate these young minds in their early years in the League of Filipino students (LFS) and Kabataan party-list group.”

Meanwhile, most of the 37 groups of petitions seeking to nullify the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 urged the Supreme Court to stop its implementation ahead of oral arguments scheduled next year.

Lawyers for 24 groups of petitioners signed a joint motion for the Court to issue a status quo ante or a temporary restraining order to stop the government from enforcing the anti-terrorism law.

Among the signatories are lawyers for the groups of retired SC justices Antonio Carpio and Conchita Carpio Morales, opposition lawmakers, activists, journalists, youth leaders, religious personalities, lawyers, and humanitarian workers.

The motion was filed the same day the Court held a preliminary conference in preparation for oral arguments scheduled for Jan. 19, 2021.

Earlier, several groups of petitioners separately reiterated their pleas for the Court to issue a preliminary injunction, fearing the continued implementation of the law would result in human rights violations.

“As has been manifested by some petitioners, there were already cases involving its implementation including the filing of a criminal case against two still detained Aetas in Zambales,” the petitioners told the justices.

“There is reportedly another case involving farmers in Negros Island,” the motion said.

The Zambales case involves Aetas accused of being communist rebels.

According to their lawyers, the Aetas were charged under the anti-terrorism law in a “reprisal” by the military against unarmed civilians and indigenous peoples for the death of a soldier in an alleged encounter with members of the NPA.

The petitioners said these cases do not yet include the enforcement of other provisions of the law, like surveillance.

The military has admitted it is surveilling some of the petitioners and lawyers challenging the law, it said.

The petitioners also stressed that some of them have been “red-tagged” or accused of communist links by officials who are part of the Anti-Terrorism Council created by the law.

The petitioners emphasized that an injunction is necessary to “prevent, in the meantime running up to almost two months before the oral arguments, any further implementation of the provisions of the assailed law which may impact on the lives, liberties and security of the petitioners and the public at large.”

In a statement, the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, whose members are part of at least 11 petitions, said taking a united stand against the anti-terror law was reached during a virtual caucus and consultation among the petitioners’ lawyers hosted by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines on Wednesday morning.

“Indeed, as in cases of such transcendental importance and indubitable exigency, especially as it involves an epic conflict between overreaching state power vis-a-vis sacred individual and collective rights and freedoms, time is of the essence,” the NUPL said.

The group added that the remaining petitioners who have not joined the motion due to time or location constraints may still do so or file their own motions.


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