Makabayan bloc not doing anything illegal in Congress, Esperon admits
In this March 2020 file photo, members of Gabriela and the Makabayan bloc perform the One Billion Rising dance, a campaign for women's rights, at the House of Representatives in observance of women's month.
The STAR/Michael Varcas, file

Makabayan bloc not doing anything illegal in Congress, Esperon admits

Xave Gregorio (Philstar.com) - November 5, 2020 - 12:13pm

MANILA, Philippines — National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon conceded Thursday that the leftist Makabayan bloc is not doing anything illegal in Congress, but maintained his allegation that they are controlled by the underground communist movement.

“They are not doing anything illegal in Congress,” Hermogenes told CNN Philippines’ “The Source.” “But there are underground organizations that they — whether wittingly or unwittingly — support that are connected with the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army and the underground National Democratic Front.”

Membership in the CPP is not a crime and has not been since 1992, when the Anti-Subversion Law was repealed. There is a pending court petition to proscribe — legally declare and outlaw — the CPP and NPA as terrorist groups. 

The NDF is not included in the petition. 

Esperon alleged that the NDF, a coalition of revolutionary organizations that represents communist rebels in peace negotiations with the government, “infiltrates” legal organizations such as Gabriela, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers and the League of Filipino Students to recruit members to their ranks.

"These are targeted by the underground organizations for recruitment purposes, for purposes that are inimical to the national security and well-being of the country," Esperon said.

Esperon's 'proof'

As supposed proof of this recruitment scheme, Esperon cited how some members of Gabriela Youth and LFS figure in armed encounters with the military as members of the CPP’s armed wing, the NPA.

“It is difficult, really, to detect it, but the proof is that those that come from their ranks end up in the ranks of the New People’s Army and underground cadres of the Communist Party of the Philippines,” he said.

But for Teddy Casiño, a former lawmaker representing the leftist party-list Bayan Muna, the NPA recruits from all sectors of society and typically targets those who are idealistic, like members of student groups, labor unions, farmers’ organizations, government employees and even cadets from the Philippine Military Academy.

"But to say that we are consciously recruiting from them, that the NPA is recruiting from our ranks, therefore we should close down our organization and stop our advocacies, that’s the problem," he said partly in Filipino.

He continued, “because you are treating organizations engaged in the legal, parliamentary struggle, you’re treating them as if they were armed combatants or rebels, which is not the case.”

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Makabayan bloc being ‘monitored’

Despite clearing them wrongdoing in Congress, Esperon said that the Makabayan bloc, currently composed of six lawmakers representing the Bayan Muna, ACT Teachers and Kabataan party-lists, is being “monitored” due to acts “inimical to national security and national well-being.”

While the much contested Anti-Terrorism Act requires a court order for surveillance activities such as wiretapping, Esperon said they can conduct “manual surveillance,” which entails the deployment of personnel to follow targets around, even without the permission of a court.

“There is still that process that needs to be followed,” Casiño said. “And these people, who were supposed to be the law enforcers are the very ones breaking, violating the process prescribed in the law.”

Esperon’s statements come amid a red-tagging spree by government and military officials against progressive and leftist groups, including the Makabayan bloc, which has prompted the Senate national defense panel to launch an investigation into these claims.

The hearing, which the Makabayan bloc skipped, turned into a platform of further red-tagging, which rights groups have said poses a threat to the lives of those accused to be part of the communist rebellion.

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