Department of Justice officials on Friday told legislators that the agency is confident on its mechanism on the investigation of political violence and does not need to have a “policy of red-tagging.”
DOJ officials made the statement after the Makabayan Bloc claimed the department has tagged three party-list organizations as fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines; its military arm, the New People’s Army and its negotiating organ, the National Democratic Front.
At the budget hearing of the DOJ, Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate, member of the bloc, raised before the justice officials the government’s May 2020 human-rights situationer that was posted on the department’s website.
The Department of Foreign Affairs-prepared report was based on input from different government agencies and includes a section on the National Task Force to End Local Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), a body created by President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order 70. Zarate quoted from the report: “In Congress, three resolutions were filed by known CPP-created party-lists, namely, Bayan Muna, Anakpawis, Gabriela, and the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) calling for the abolition of EO 70.”
Zarate said that ‘Bayan Muna’ was not created by the Communist Party of the Philippines. “We are a legally registered party. Nagkaroon kami ng kongreso (We held a congress) in 2000/1999 and we were duly elected by our constituencies.”
Bayan Muna and its allied organizations object to being accused as fronts of the CPP/NPA/NDF and said the label has put its members in physical danger.
Recently, NDF consultants Randall Echanis and Zara Alvarez were killed.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra and Undersecretary Adrian Sugay told congressmen that they were not the source of the sentence mentioned by Zarate while Undersecretary Markk Perete explained that the DOJ’s participation in the report related only to its Administrative Order 35 mechanism.
Administrative Order 35 of 2012 created a committee dedicated to resolving cases of political violence in the form of extra-legal killings, enforced disappearances, torture, and other grave human-rights violations.
Despite the justice officials’s explanation, Zarate insisted that the document is a “collective report” of government agencies, including the DOJ, and claimed that its posting on the DOJ website is “tacit endorsement” of its contents.
The three said the department has no policy of red-tagging progressive groups.
Guevarra assured Congress that the department and its prosecutors based the resolution of cases sent to them on the strength of evidence collected.
“As a matter of policy, we resolve cases on the basis of the evidence presented before us. During my tenure as Secretary of Justice, I made it a point that all resulutions are evidence-based,” he added.
He explained that AO35 is a mechanism that initiates investigations on cases of political violence. Guevarra chairs the inter-agency committee created by AO35.
The department was alloted a proposed budget of P22.5 billion for next year although the DOJ proposed P33.4 billion. This year, the department has a budget of P22.025 billion.