Makabayan bloc skips hearing, hopes Senate won't be venue to amplify red-tagging

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Makabayan bloc skips hearing, hopes Senate won't be venue to amplify red-tagging
This undated photo shows members of the leftist Makabayan bloc.
Facebook / Bayan Muna

MANILA, Philippines — As the Senate on Tuesday launched a legislative inquiry into intensified "red-tagging" by military and government officials, members of progressive groups and party-lists skipped the proceedings and called on the Senate to not be a platform for the dangerous practice of labelling activists as enemies of the state.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, chair of the committee on national defense and security, in his opening statement said he sent official notices to the offices of Bayan Muna, Alliance of Concerned Teachers, Kabataan and Gabriela. The invitations were received but the groups did not confirm their attendance to the hearing.

Makabayan bloc was represented at the hearing by lawyer Maneeka Sarza, who read the lawmakers' letter to the panel.

'Senate no place for preposterous allegations'

The six members of the Makabayan bloc asserted that their track record in the Congress cannot be diminished by red-tagging as they called on senators to not allow the committee to be used for throwing allegations without evidence.

"We are hoping that you will not allow your committee and the Senate be used as a platform for red-tagging or terrorist tagging, a policy that has long been proven by United Nations Special Rapporteurs that give way to political killings through extra-judicial killings or trumped up cases and other human rights violations," their letter read in Filipino.

The Makabayan bloc lawmakers also said that the Senate should not be used to endanger the lives of leaders and members of progressive groups.

"That the Senate investigated the issue of ‘missing minors’ where accusations without evidence were presented and resulted in trumped up cases against the represenative and other members of the Makabayan—which has been junked the by Department of Justice due to lack of basis—should not happen again," the lawmakers added.

Rep. Arlene Brosas (Gabriela Women’s Party) wrote a separate letter to Lacson said she will not participate in the inquiry.

“Distinguished lawmakers, we hope that this Senate will not become a mere venue for [National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC)] Spokesperson General Parlade to parade his so-called witnesses and further redtag public personalities, duly elected lawmakers, and human rights defenders,” she said.

“We believe that the Senate should not be made a venue to make preposterous allegations against duly elected members of the Congress,” Brosas added.

Colmenares: Another hearing without Parlade

Lacson also said that Bayan Muna chairperson Neri Colmenares, a former lawmaker himself, said he could not attend the hearing and requested another session "so he may be given an opportunity to attend, but without the presence of the members of the security sector, particularly Lt. Gen. [Antonio] Parlade."

The senator showed part of the Colmenares’ email response to his office, where he said that he may not make it to the hearing on Tuesday as he received the invitation on Saturday and he is out with his family.

Colmenares said he will try to attend, but it would more possible for him to be present at a next hearing, “this time with those who are the subject of red-tagging including the celebrities, separate from the first hearing on [Parlade’s] allegations.”

Colmenares, in his letter to Lacson, also said he believes that Parlade will take opportunity to use a public forum to “red tag us further even if they have no evidence.”

The Bayan Muna chairperson asserted that a case should be filed against him if they have evidence, but instead, “they always prefer ‘public debates’ where they can hurl accusations without the benefit of any admissible proof and public humiliate the victim.”

“And if we do not give them that opportunity to red tag, they will claim that we are hiding something, and declare us guilty, which by the way, only shows their very low standard of evidence to designate persons and organizations, terrorists. I am sure you will not want the Senate to be a platform for more red-tagging by Gen. Parlade,” Colmenares added.

Lacson said they will discuss Colmenares’ request with the other members of the committee.

The hearing is attended by top military officials of the government including Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Gen. Gilbert Gapay, National Security Council Director General Hermogenes Esperon and National Intelligence Coordinating Agency Director-General Alex Paul Monteagudo.

Officials of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) are also present namely Parlade and Communications Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy.

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