Two Makabayan lawmakers faced the security sector during the Senate Committee on National Defense’s deliberations on red-tagging and denied the allegations linking them to the Communist Party of the Philippines.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate and Kabataan party-list Rep. Sarah Elago, members of the Makabayan bloc at the House of Representatives, have faced the Senate hearing Tuesday to refute the “baseless” accusations leveled against them, and demand “accountability” from those who associated them with the communist rebels.
Former Bayan Muna representatives, lawyer Neri Colmenares and Teodoro Casiño, also attended the Senate hearing to air their side on the red-tagging issue.
Representing one of the red-tagged organizations— Gabriela, Secretary-General Joan May Salvador attended the hearing along with resource persons from Karapatan— Ms. Cristina Palabay and National Union of People’s Lawyers Atty. Jobert Pahilga.
In his opening speech, Zarate vehemently denied he is a rebel and a member of the communist party.
“Tahasan kong sinasabi sa Komiteng ito Mr. Chair na hindi ako miyembro o opisyal ng Communist Party of the Philippines. Hindi ako rebelde o miyembro ng [National Democratic Front of the Philippines],” he said.
“Tahasan ko ring pinasisinungalingan na ang aking partido, ang Bayan Muna, ay creation at kontrolado ng CPP,” he added.
Elago also renounced claims, alleging Kabataan Party-list as a recruitment arm for the New People’s Army.
“Hindi ako NPA. Hindi ako NPA “recruiter.” Hindi po bahagi o “front” ng CPP ang Kabataan Partylist. Hindi NPA Recruiter ang Kabataan Partylist. Hindi rin ito nagrerecruit para maging NPA,” she said.
Elago said it is very illogical to claim that the party-list she represents serves as the recruiter of the NPA.
“Madaming miyembro ang Kabataan Partylist na napunta sa iba’t ibang propesyon o larangan. May kalayaang magdesisyon ang bawat miyembro kung anong landas na kanilang tatahakin sa buhay,” she added.
Elago also denied that she met National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) witness named Lady Ann Miranda.
The lawmaker said she doesn’t know Miranda and her claim that there was an underground meeting in the University of the Philippines College of Law is not true.
“Una, hindi ko siya kilala. Pangalawa, wala akong dinadaluhan na sinasabing underground meeting,” she said.
Elago also called out social media postings made by Philippine National Police and the military.
She also denounced National Intelligence Coordinating Agency Director-General Alex Paul Monteagudo’s posts showing quotes she never said.
“Is this what NICA calls truth-tagging, Mr. Chair? Hindi po ba nakakabahala na kailangan pang ipaalala ng kabataan sa ating na premier intelligence agency: Think before you click. Consider the source before sharing content,” a teary-eyed Elago said.
“Nakakahiya po kung galing sa NICA at Secretariat ng Anti- Terrorism Council tapos hindi man lang marunong mag fact-check. This irresponsibility is a dangerous threat to our democracy,” she added.
The youth party-list representatives reminded the law enforcers and the national task force reminded of the effects of red-tagging on certain individuals as she mentioned the killings of Zara Alvarez, Ryan Hubilla, Jory Porquia after being linked with the communist rebels.
“Ngayon, Mr. Chair, sabihin nyo sa amin na walang red-tagging, sabihin niyo sa amin na hindi delikado ang pangre-redtag, sabihin niyo sa amin na wala kaming dapat ikabahala,” she said.
Colmenares and Casiño likewise denied their ties with the communist party.
“I have always worked within the bounds of the Constitution and our laws. I am not engaged in the armed struggle, I do not support or espouse the violent overthrow of the state, and I do not recruit for the New People’s Army or any armed group. Hindi po ako rebelde, Mr. Chair. Hindi po ako terorista. At hindi po ako front ng mga rebelde o terorista. Ako po ay isang aktibista,” Casiño said.
“Red tagging is guilt by association with our accusers playing the role of judge, jury, and executioner,” he said.
“Pag ni-red tag ka, siyempre pag-iinitan ka, matatakot ka at mas gugustuhing tumahimik na lang. It is this chilling effect on our people that kills democratic participation and healthy debate on issues of public concern,” he added.
Colmenares, on the other hand, refuted Celiz’s allegations in the first hearing.
Colmenares maintained that Celiz sought fortress with the military because of his drug links and now he is being used to throw allegations against whoever the state wants to attack.
“Ano ang game plan? Hindi naman pala sila magfa-file ng kaso sa korte pero gusto nila mag-redtag para ang publiko masasabi na ‘terorista nga sila, ay NPA naman talaga yan’ and ifa-file nila ay proscription and designation under the [Anti-Terrorism Law]. Why? Mas madali kasi yan e,” Colmenares said.
“If Makabayan, Bayan, activist groups, and dissenters are proscribed or destroyed, will it end the CPP/NPA revolution? No, because the government admitted that the solution is to address their legitimate issues of poverty, injustice, and other social ills,” he said.
National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., in his opening speech, said he is glad to engage in an interaction with the Makabayan solons during the Senate hearing.