Citing heightened red-tagging, Makabayan bloc calls on SC to halt anti-terror law implementation

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Citing heightened red-tagging, Makabayan bloc calls on SC to halt anti-terror law implementation
This photo taken July 6, 2020 shows the members of the Makabayan bloc at the Supreme Court, where they filed a legal challenge against the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.
Makabayan bloc / Released

MANILA, Philippines — Citing intensified red-tagging, petitioners from the Makabayan bloc at the House of Representatives pressed the Supreme Court to immediately stop the implementation of the much feared Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.

In a 12-page motion filed Friday, representatives of the Makabayan bloc urged the SC to issue temporary restraining order against the enforcement of the anti-terrorism law.

This is at least the fourth motion prodding the SC to grant petitioners’ injunctive relief against the law since the government released its Implementing Rules and Regulation.

In their motion, the Makabayan bloc noted that the IRR, the allocation of billions of funds for anti-terrorism program, and intensified red-tagging “either establish the clear doggedness of the current administration and the defense and security officials to enforce an evidently unconstitutional law, or are the very acts that constitute its implementation.”

READ: Lawmakers join academe in assailing anti-terrorism law before SC

Funding from taxpayers' money

The petitioners noted that in President Rodrigo Duterte’s Budget Message for the fiscal year of 2021, the Department of National Defense is to receive P209.1 billion “to address threats and combat terrorism in the country.”

Apart from the budget for the defense department, P19.13 billion will be also appropriated under “various programs over which the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) will have a say,” the lawmakers said.

This includes a new item called “Support to the Barangay Development Program.”

Citing House Bill 7727 or the General Appropriations Bill for the Fiscal Year 2020, the petitioners said the P16.44 for the Support to Barangay Development Program "shall be used for the implementation of various support programs of the NTF-ELCAC for cleared barangays as certified by the NTC-ELCAC."

Budget Secretary Wendell Avisado also explained to the lawmakers that the BDP was proposed and will be implemented pursuant to Executive Order 70, which institutionalizes a “whole-of-nation approach” to end the communist insurgency. The Commission on Human Rights has flagged the use of this directive to justify continued attacks on human rights defenders and activists.

“That the budget for the programs to be handled by the NTF-ELCAC is to be used against what the NTF-ELCAC and defense and security officials call the ‘communist-terrorist groups’ or ‘CTGs’ was reiterated throughout the budget deliberations all the way up to the Senate,” the petitioners added.

Intensified red-tagging

The opposition lawmakers also said government officials’ red-tagging of members of progressive groups intensified during the budget deliberations.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy, also NTF-ELCAC spokesperson, tagged Makabayan bloc and its representatives as “high-ranking officials” of the Communist Party of the Philippines. Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr., another spokesperson of the NTF-ELCAC, accused members of Gabriela and Gabriela Women’s party-list of being members of the communist party and of being terrorists.

READ: House minority wants Lorraine Badoy out of PCOO for continued red-tagging | Velasco defends red-tagged lawmakers

But Badoy and Parlade did not present any credible evidence to back their allegations, the petitioners said.

The petitioners stressed that red-tagging has resulted in deaths, as seen in the brutal murders of peace consultant Randall Echanis, Bayan Muna Iloilo coordinator Jory Porquia and rights worker Zara Alvarez.

“Being labelled as ‘terrorist,’ ‘communist,’ or a ‘legal front’ for the armed rebel movement—regardless of lack of evidence—makes one a target in a ‘strategic communication’ otherwise known as black propaganda, or is marked for surveillance, up to assassination,” they said.

“Petitioners plead with the Honorable Court not to let more days pass before provisional relief is granted them, or to wait for deliberations are conducted or finished before the law they are assailing is reined in. Petitioners are now being targeted under the patently unconstitutional Anti-Terrorism Act so they need injunctive relief now,” the lawmakers added.

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