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Makabayan bloc not doing anything illegal in Congress â Esperon
National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon said these groups tread the thin line between being an organization that supports worthy advocacies versus that which provides support to the communist armed rebellion.
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Makabayan bloc not doing anything illegal in Congress – Esperon

Christina Mendez, Romina Cabrera (The Philippine Star) - November 6, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon has conceded that the Makabayan bloc is not doing anything unlawful in Congress despite the continuous word war between state forces and leftist groups over alleged red-tagging.

He said these groups tread the thin line between being an organization that supports worthy advocacies versus that which provides support to the communist armed rebellion.

“They are not doing anything illegal in Congress. They are not. But there are underground organizations that they, whether wittingly or unwittingly, support, that are connected with Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army (NPA) and the underground National Democratic Front,” he said yesterday in an interview on CNN.

Esperon said they have been conducting “manual surveillance” on elected members of the Makabayan bloc, noting that the defense sector can do this even without a court order as they have already deemed these individuals to be a security threat or contributory to groups who are threats to security.

“Manual surveillance is our operatives doing light surveillance of the target. We can do that. Deployment of troops or personnel to conduct surveillance on specific persons,” he added.

A former chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Esperon believes that seeking a disqualification of the Makabayan bloc as party-list representative is also an option.

“It may not be us, it might be the citizenry themselves, or groups that think they should not become part of this party-list system. Certainly, that is an option,” he said.

He added that the Makabayan bloc should face the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) in the ongoing Senate hearing headed by Sen. Panfilo Lacson on alleged red-tagging.

He alleged that members of the Makabayan-affiliated bloc, including its women’s and youth chapters, have been neutralized during encounters with state forces recently.

Esperon maintained that Ella Colmenares, sister of actress Angel Locsin, is a member of the NPA and said that he supported the allegations made by a supposed former communist rebel who testified at the Senate hearing.

Meanwhile, Malacañang rejected yesterday the proposal of some senators to realign the P19-billion anti-insurgency fund under the NTF-ELCAC to disaster relief and COVID-19 measures in the 2021 budget.

“I think there is no need to realign the funds because ELCAC’s budget goes to areas where there are insurgency problems. We know that there should be progress and development in these areas so that the problem of insurgency will be eradicated,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a press briefing from Catanduanes.

He said areas devastated by the recent typhoons will likely be benefitting from ELCAC, noting that insurgents are active in the Bicol provinces.

Senators from the majority and minority blocs have supported calls to realign the NTF-ELCAC fund in the 2021 budget for the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and housing.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon noted that, for 2021, the government needed P25 billion to build 6.4 million houses in order to “partially” solve the country’s shelter problem, which had been worsened by the typhoon.

“Let us divert this huge lump-sum amount to disaster relief programs to help rebuild lives and communities in the typhoon-hit areas,” he said in a statement.

The move would also help erase suspicions that the money could be used “in aid of 2022 elections,” Drilon added.

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