Sen. Panfilo Lacson on Monday guaranteed that passing a measure that would criminalize red-tagging will be a “tall order” in the Senate.
Lacson said he is seriously considering proposals to make red-tagging a crime but believes he will not get a lot of support from his fellow senators.
“I took the inputs of at least two legal luminaries, [lawyer and professor Tony La Vina and Commission on Human Rights] Commissioner Karen Gomez-Dumpit,” said Lacson, chairman of the senate national defense committee who led a Senate inquiry into alleged red-tagging by military officials on some personalities, including showbiz people, who sympathizes with the cause of militant organizations.
Meanwhile, leaders of militant party-list groups in the House of Representatives on Monday said the intensified red tagging of Makabayan Bloc Parties “because of their political beliefs, is not only a constitutional issue but a threat to our lives.”
In a statement, House Deputy Minority Leader Carlos Isagani Zarate and Bayan Muna chairman Neri Colmenares said: "Red tagging is intended to stifle dissent and threaten the lives of the victims.”
The two Bayan Muna leaders, however, admitted that “it is a recognized legitimate option of the people under international humanitarian law to wage armed struggle against dictators and foreign invaders of their country. Attacking us for this belief is an attack against this constitutional right to political beliefs and should not be countenanced by anyone."
They said their failure to condemn armed struggle should not be used to red-tag them “because they (armed rebels) have legitimate demands.”
The series of red tagging, Zarate said is "actually to instill fear on Makabayan and other critics to stifle dissent and to file for the disqualification or listing of the members of the bloc under the anti-terror law."
Even Vice President Leni Robredo has been red-tagged, as she denied any alleged involvement with the communist rebels on Monday and appealed to the public to help her report social media posts that red-tagged her over the weekend.
In a Facebook post, Robredo shared screenshots of social media cards with quotes credited to her where she supposedly declared her support to the New People’s Army under the Communist Party of the Philippines.
“It gets crazier and crazier. Now I am being red tagged. None of the allegations here are true. Please help us report these peddlers of fake news. Pare pareho at halos sabay sabay ang labas. So mukhang eto yung script this week,” she said.
Lacson said senators just cannot disregard the inputs of Lavina and Dumpit because according to them, red-tagging may be criminalized because freedom of speech is not absolute after all
“That’s where I am coming from when I said I am seriously considering criminalizing red-tagging. But I know it is a tall order as far as my colleagues in the Senate are concerned,” he added.
Lacson said his committee is still collating all the information during the three public hearings conducted on the issue of red-tagging.
“I cannot just deny the fact that both sides presented their cases regarding red-tagging. Dean Antonio La Vina and CHR Commissioner Dumpit both contended that red-tagging may be criminalized,” he said.
On the other side, he related the statement of the security sector that if we criminalize red-tagging we might as well criminalize fascist-tagging or dictator-tagging.
“So, when will this end? Right now, what we are doing in the committee is to collate and evaluate all information and testimonies we gathered during the hearings,” asked the former police chief.
Zarate said that "despite their (administration's) claims, what is clear, as the Senate hearings have proven, the NTF ELCAC has no evidence sufficient to file criminal cases, so they will resort to disqualification, proscription and designation because these administrative proceedings require lower quantum of evidence.”
“They may still file criminal cases against us for show, but they know these will be dismissed like their other criminal cases, where they used the same allegations using the same witnesses and documents, which were also dismissed by the courts and even the Department of Justice, for lack of evidence."
"Their plan to file a disqualification/proscription/designation case is intended to harass Makabayan and use these cases as black propaganda with the aim of defeating Makabayan in the coming elections,” the solon said.
“They also want to disable Makabayan's electoral machinery that will campaign against the administration's presidential candidate in 2022, because they know we will campaign hard for the opposition," added the Davao-based Zarate.
ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro, meanwhile, said members of the Makabayan Bloc are the nominees of “duly elected party-list groups voted by the people for our firm stance for higher salaries, genuine land reform, for the respect and protection of the rights and welfare of teachers, workers, students and all Filipinos.”
Castro added: “Attacking the Makabayan Bloc also attacks the different sectors we represent.”