Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Thursday said reports of “red-tagging” during the last few months is “quite disturbing” but he acknowledged that there is no law that can be used to prosecute those engaged in such acts.
Guevarra stressed that if Congress wants to prosecute individuals engaged in what he described as “loosely called red-tagging,” then lawmakers should pass the appropriate law penalizing red-tagging.
“Well, in the past few months there were a number of complaints about red-tagging and people have raised their voice against it. So might as well have one (law) because the frequency of this act loosely called red-tagging has really become quite disturbing if I may say,” Guevarra said in an interview over ABS-CBN News Channel.
National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) vice chairperson Sec. Hermogenes Esperon Jr. should just read Article XVI, Sec 5, paragraph 4 of the 1987 Constitution when he decides on the fate of Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. as task force spokesperson, said Sen. Panfilo Lacson.
Lacson said Esperon may not even need one week to review.
He said provision in the Constitution is clear: “No member of the armed forces in the active service shall, at any time, be appointed or designated in any capacity to a civilian position in the Government, including government-owned or controlled corporations or any of their subsidiaries.”
Because of this, Lacson said Esperon and Malacañang’s legal staff can simply ask themselves the question: is NTF-ELCAC a civilian office or a unit of the AFP?
Guevarra, for his part, made the statement backing the statement backing the passage of a law to define red-tagging when asked if he was alarmed by level it was being done by some government officials.
“If Congress is minded to investigate and prosecute actual acts which are loosely called red-tagging at this time then appropriate legislation should be enacted because right now these acts considered or deemed red-tagging are not punishable exactly for what it is so it seems the best that could be done would be to file complaints which are somehow related but not directly fitting to the act being complained of. So that’s really congressional initiative authority if they want to prosecute people who do ‘red-tagging’ then the appropriate legislation should be passed,” he said.
Guevarra noted that at present, complaints revolving around defamation, harassment, coercion, unjust vexation, or violation of privacy laws are the possible complaints that can be filed against those suspected of engaging in “red-tagging” or accusing people of being aligned or sympathetic to communists.
The Justice Secretary also admitted that it was possible that the passage of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 might have emboldened some to engage in red-tagging activities.
Guevarra said, “There is a provision in the Anti-Terrorism Law about recruitment and membership in terrorist organizations and punishes those acts accordingly. May be this is being related to a percent what’s happening now that certain persons or group of persons are being tagged as communist or terrorist or subversive or enemies of the state.”
Guevarra recalled that there was previously a law, Republic Act 1700 or the Anti-Subversion Law, that outlawed the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), but in 1992 it was repealed.
It was only when the ATA was passed into law when penalties were imposed on those who are members of a terrorist organization.