Senator Panfilo Lacson, principal author of the Anti-Terrorism Act, has filed a resolution to investigate alleged red-tagging incidents involving some military officials.
Officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and members of the Gabriela Women’s Party will be summoned to the Senate to discuss the issue, Lacson told reporters during a virtual press conference Wednesday.
“We want to pinpoint the root cause of red tagging, red baiting, etcetera,” Lacson, said Lacson, former chief of the Philippine National Police and the current chair of the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security, Peace, Unification and Reconciliation.
Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) earlier drew flak for threatening Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray, and Kapamilya actresses Liza Soberano and Angel Locsin over their supposed association with alleged front organizations of the communist movement after the three celebrities spoke supporting women’s rights.
But the three will not be invited to the Senate hearing, Lacson said.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año himself urged the military to back with evidence claims implicating individuals or groups involved in the communist insurgency.
Speaking on ANC’s Matters of Fact, Año, a former Armed Forces of the Philippines chief-of-staff, stressed that red-tagging anyone without evidence was unfair.
“I would suggest to military to back up their claims and I think they have evidence (sic) and they will come out in the open once there’s a proper forum,” he said.
“But of course, it’s not fair to just mention any name or an organization without any particular evidence.”
For Año, one of the best ways to solve communist insurgency, which he said is among President Rodrigo Duterte’s priorities until the end of his term in 2022, “is to go in court and file charges.”
Red-baiting, defined by the Supreme Court in 2011 as an act of labeling individuals or organizations as being left-leaning, subversives, communists or terrorists, did not start from government forces, he noted.
“It was actually Jose Maria Sison, the exiled founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines, who first red-tagged these organizations in his speech in one international forum in 2003. He named these organizations including some party-list organizations,” said Año, who also served as Philippine Army Commanding General.
“So it’s really Joma Sison who started all these. The military is just being factual and the PNP,” added Año, who now oversees the 205,000-strong police force.
Meanwhile, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon batted for the existence of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) amidst calls by “progressive” groups to revoke it.
Esperon also defended the P16.4 billion budget earmarked to uplift the living conditions of poor communities, through the Barangay Development Program, devastated by New People’s Army, a target of defunding by the same group.
“In the strongest terms, I denounce the personalities that claim to be ‘progressive’ and are calling for the dismantling of the NTF-ELCAC and the defunding of the Barangay Development Program,” Esperon said in a statement.
Esperon was reacting following disinformation peddled in the social media in the aftermath of NTF-ELCAC spokesman Parlade Jr.’s utterance on the alleged ties of Soberano and Gray to Gabriela Womens Party.
“The Task Force and the Program do not infringe upon the liberties and freedoms that our people possess constitutionally,” Esperon explained.
“We in the NTF-ELCAC do not intend to stand in the way of advocacies for the rights of vulnerable sectors,” he added.
The NTF-ELCAC had submitted to Congress a P16.4 billion to fund development projects to 822 barangays cleared of New People’s Army influence, but awaiting final approval from the Senate.
“I take this opportunity to introduce the NTF-ELCAC to a wider audience, and clarify the misconceptions and disinformation being spread on social media. I need to reiterate the security and development nexus as a paradigm of the NTF-ELCAC,” Esperon said.
He also debunked accusations of “red-tagging” front organizations that he described as the creation of Jose Ma. Sison.
“To them, I pose these questions: Why have they not questioned Jose Maria Sison when he himself identified these organizations as part of the bigger organ of the Communist Party of the Philippines? Sison was specific when he named Bayan, Gabriela, Alliance of Concerned Teachers, League of Filipino Students, and Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas as well as the Kilusang Mayo Uno as part of his national democratic revolution,” Esperon lamented.
He also said the front organizations had attended the 6th International League of People’s Struggles Assembly in Hongkong in June 2019, the brainchild of Sison.
“We have determined that numerous members of these front organizations inevitably end up in the ranks, as well as armed combatants of the NPA. For instance, we have seen how young women such as Josephine Anne Lapira, the Deputy General of Gabriela Youth, and Gabriela youth members Jastine Ella Vargas and Rona Jane Manalo have engaged in armed combat and unfortunately, were killed in encounters with our security forces,” Esperon said.
Meanwhile, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman urged the Supreme Court to issue a temporary restraining order against the controversial Anti-Terrorism Act or Republic Act 11479.
He said the “relentless yet unfounded” red-tagging of some members of the House of Representatives belonging to the Makabayan bloc as well as of Soberano and Gray should be “another reason” for the issuance of a restraining order to stop the law’s implementation.
“The enactment and effectivity of the ATA have emboldened military officials like Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade (Jr.), spokesman of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), to label activist lawmakers of the Makabayan Bloc as ‘terrorists’ for allegedly being card-bearing members of the Communist Party of the Philippines,” he said in a statement.
“Parlade has even justified the surveillance of targeted legislators under the new anti-terrorism law,” he added.
At least 37 petitions were filed with the Supreme Court questioning the constitutionality of RA 11479. At the same time, Makabayan Coalition co-chair and former Gabriela Partylist Congresswoman Liza Maza slammed Parlade’s veiled threats of terrorist-tagging against Gabriela Women’s Party-list and other members of the Makabayan bloc.
“This whole red-tagging circus that Parlade has been orchestrating plays the same old tune of those rabid militarists involved in the filing of a rebellion case against us, Batasan 6, during the Arroyo administration in 2006. The nature of military forces as manufacturers of lies and fake witnesses against the left has long been exposed as the trumped-up cases filed against us were dismissed by the Supreme Court back then,” Maza said.
“More than causing the obvious grave dangers of terrorist-tagging on activists, Parlade’s baseless accusations against Gabriela and the Makabayan bloc are nothing but desperate attempts to cover up the real terrorism committed by Duterte’s AFP and PNP. Parlade and the rest of his kind have overused red-tagging to silence the voices and strip off the representation of the poor and marginalized sectors,” Maza said.