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Nation

Senators to NICA: Stop red-tagging critics

Cecille Suerte Felipe - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — Senators yesterday called on the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) to stop red-tagging government critics.

“In my opinion, their effort to red-tag people is out of place,” said Sen. Francis Pangilinan, referring to NICA director general Alex Monteagudo’s pronouncement that communist rebels have had insiders among Senate employees for a long time.

Pangilinan said the intelligence officials might be trying to find ways to justify their multibillion-peso intelligence funds.

He said the red-tagging comes in the wake of a surge in COVID-19 cases.

“Our people are unable to enter hospitals. They are waiting in the parking lot, in tents and in ambulances, and these officials prioritize this. This not really right. They should stop that,” he said.

Alarmed by the rising cases of red-tagging, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon proposed a measure that will make red-tagging punishable by up to 10 years in prison and disqualify persons convicted of red-tagging from holding public office.

Drilon said Senate Bill 2121 seeks to criminalize red-tagging and provide for penalties as deterrence “in order to fix the legal gaps, address impunity and institutionalize a system of accountability.”

Libel or grave threats is not appropriate where a state agent vilifies a person as an enemy of the state, thereby impinging on the rights of that individual, Drilon said.

Sen. Aquilino Pimentel II said senators would ask Monteagudo for the basis of his pronouncement.

“Just because they are activists, you think they are communists,” he said in a radio interview.

He encouraged those red-tagged to share their experiences and the effects on their lives, which could be used as a basis in criminalizing red-tagging.

In its report, the Senate committee on national defense and security, peace, unification, and reconciliation said criminalizing red-tagging is no longer necessary as there are existing laws if the alleged red-tagging violated certain individuals’ constitutional rights.

The report of the Senate committee chaired by Sen. Panfilo Lacson stated that legal remedies are sufficient and available for personalities or groups that have been the subject of red-tagging. Some of them have availed themselves of these remedies, as evidenced by cases filed in the Ombudsman, according to the report.

RED TAGGING SENATORS
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