Lorenzana set on disqualifying Makabayan lawmakers

Lorenzana set on disqualifying Makabayan lawmakers
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 — The petition of the government's anti-communist task force to the Commission on Elections seeking the disqualification of the Makabayan lawmakers in the House of Representatives was backed by the Department of National Defense on Sunday. 

Speaking in an interview aired over dzBB Super Radyo, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, a member of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, claimed that this was because the lawmakers under the bloc were only strengthening communist rebels. 

"That's one method or way to have them removed from Congress. If you take a look at their history, they've done nothing but criticize the government, and while they're there, the (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army) is only getting stronger," he said in Filipino. 

"Because they're a legal front, they think they can do what they want to do...If a legal front is fronting for an illegal organization, like the NPA, it is illegal," he added. 

READ: Bayan: Why is the burden on us to prove we're not a rebel front?

Members and lawmakers under the bloc, however, are registered and elected under the lower chamber's party-list system. No evidence linking the House representatives to the communist party has been presented to this day, despite an ongoing probe in the Senate.

The NTF-ELCAC, a composite group created under no less than the Office of the President, has been caught in a lie numerous times in the past for using fake quote-card graphics on its social media channels, and spreading false allegations against broadcast giant ABS-CBN Corp.  

For its part, the Makabayan bloc has long been decrying the spate of red-tagging that it has found itself on the receiving end of, which culminated in its filing a petition before the Supreme Court against the implementation of the controversial Anti-Terror Law, citing the intensified red-tagging campaign over the past few months. 

But Lorenzana saw things differently, saying: "We did not invent the term red-tag." 

"If you're really not part of them, then you have to denounce them and their terrorist activities and really distance from them," he said. 

Militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan has already responded to this assertion, asking: Why does the burden of proof fall on the accused in this case?

"No organization is under any obligation to condemn the CPP-NPA just to prove their legality, in the same way no one is required to condemn illegal drugs just to prove one is not an addict," the group's secretary-general Renato Reyes Jr. said earlier. 

Bayan Muna: Plan designed to disable opposition in 2022 polls 

Activism, and holding leftist views, or even membership in the communist party does not actually constitute a crime under the laws of the Philippines, contrary to the assertions of some government officials. 

While the Communist Party of the Philippines has been designated a terrorist organization by the US Department of State and the European Union, membership in the CPP is not a crime under the country's laws and has not been one since 1992, when the Anti-Subversion Law was repealed during the Fidel Ramos administration.

In a statement sent to reporters later Thursday, Bayan Muna Party-list slammed the proposal as an attempt at stifling and weakening the opposition ahead of the country's 2022 elections, adding that red-tagging was not only a violation of Constitutional rights but also a threat to their lives. 

"Red tagging is intended to stifle dissent and threaten the lives of the victims.  To justify red-tagging because of failure to condemn armed struggle because they have legitimate demands and it is a recognized legitimate option of the people under international humanitarian law to wage armed struggle against dictators and foreign invaders of their country. Attacking us for this belief is an attack against this constitutional right to political beliefs and should not be countenanced by anyone," said Bayan Muna chairman Neri Colmenares.

He added that the series of red-tagging is "actually to instill fear on Makabayan and other critics to stifle dissent and as Sec. Lorenzana has threatened, to file for the disqualification or proscription/designation under anti-terror law of the Makabayan bloc."

"Their plan to file a disqualification/proscription/designation case is intended to harass Makabayan and use these cases as black propaganda with the aim of defeating Makabayan in the coming elections. They also want to disable Makabayan's electoral machinery that will campaign against the administration's presidential candidate in 2022, because they know we will campaign hard for the opposition," House Deputy Minority Leader Carlos Zarate said for his part. 

"Red tagging is not truth tagging: it is a witch hunt and an attempt to destroy dissent and the opposition," he said. 

— Franco Luna with reports from Xave Gregorio 

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