“The recklessness in making such inaccurate and inconsistent public pronouncements causes not only damage to the reputation of those identified, but also weakens the credibility of the government in safeguarding the security of the State. To earn the trust and confidence of the people, they must prove the legitimacy of their means used in gathering information and the credibility of their evidence.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – The Senate Committee tasked to investigate red-tagging by government officials strongly scolded Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. and the military for their unsubstantiated pronouncements.
In a 77-page report, the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security, Peace, Unification and Reunification states that “many pronouncements of Lt. Gen. Parlade, verbal and written online, have paved a warpath against personalities, entities, and organizations who are critical of the government.”
Parlade, spokesperson of the National Task Force to End the Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) and chief of the Southern Luzon Command, has publicly labeled Makabayan bloc lawmakers, leaders of people’s organizations, and several personalities as members of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
The report stressed that public statements without substantiated claims before the court may be construed as threat.
The report read, “Coming from a high-ranking military official, whose statements may be misconstrued as the policy not only of the NTF-ELCAC but also that of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the aforementioned contentious pronouncements are mere propaganda effort which is inconsequential — if not counterproductive — to the cause of the anti-insurgency program.”
The report said that the blunder of the military in their Facebook post labeling former students who allegedly joined the New People’s Army (died or captured) is unacceptable.
“The recklessness in making such inaccurate and inconsistent public pronouncements causes not only damage to the reputation of those identified, but also weakens the credibility of the government in safeguarding the security of the State. To earn the trust and confidence of the people, they must prove the legitimacy of their means used in gathering information and the credibility of their evidence,” the report read.
The report also cited in particular Parlade’s name-calling Inquirer.net reporter Tetch Torres-Tupas as ‘a propagandist’ for writing an article about the two Aeta farmers who filed a petition against the Anti-Terror Law.
“At the time when Supreme Court is hearing 37 petitions against the Anti-Terrorism Act, particularly on the issue involving ‘overbreadth doctrine among others, such remarks from Gen. Parlade were uncalled for and unnecessary,” the report said.
With this, the Senate committee called on authorities to “refrain from publicly vilifying, labeling and imputing guilt by association to the communist groups, various institutions and progressive organizations based on false or unverified information.”
In a statement, the Makabayan bloc said that in making such recommendation, “the Senate has thereby tacitly acknowledged that the military, police, and certain public officials have engaged in such behavior.”
Red-taggers must be held accountable
The progressive lawmakers said that such recommendation be immediately implemented. “All red-tagging activities by the government should immediately cease, posts and publications must be taken down, and those responsible held accountable and charged accordingly,” they said.
The legislators from Bayan Muna, ACT Teachers Partylist, Gabriela Women’s Party and Kabataan Partylist added that the report’s references to Parlade “provide more than enough grounds for his sacking as NTF-ELCAC spokesperson and dismissal from the service for ‘conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman.’”
The Makabayan bloc noted that the Senate committee report falls short of holding the responsible into account.
They noted that the report has “refused to acknowledge the direct link between red-tagging by government agents and the perpetration of human rights violations, including extra-judicial killings, against victims of such tagging, citing ‘absence of substantial evidence.’”
“The Committee has been too quick to devalue the testimony of victims of red-tagging who have suffered actual violations of their rights, while invoking exemption from the rules of evidence and according presumption of regularity in its appreciation of the largely hearsay testimony provided by the NTF-ELCAC’s witnesses against the Makabayan bloc and other progressive organizations. Red-tagging kills, and those responsible must be held accountable,” the group said in a statement.
The Makabayan bloc also disagreed with the report’s affirmation that red-tagging is not a state policy.
They asserted that red-tagging is “a nationally directed vilification campaign using public funds and resources. This is attested by the volume, frequency, and extent of use by government officials and state security forces, from the highest levels to units on the ground.”
Contrary to the report’s recommendation that there is no need for a law criminalizing red-tagging as there are legal remedies in place, the Makabayan bloc said the so-called remedies are “insufficient, defective and lacking.”
They added that human rights violators largely escaped accountability.
“Existing remedies need to be reviewed, while criminalization of red-tagging through the enactment of the Human Rights Defenders bill remains necessary,” the Makabayan bloc said in a statement.
Address the roots of armed conflict
Part of the Senate Committee report’s recommendation is for the Makabayan bloc to publicly denounce what it calls as “actual acts of aggression” against the government.
The Makabayan bloc maintained that the armed struggle being waged by the CPP, New People’s Army and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines “is rooted in historical and legitimate grievances that have to be addressed by the government.”
The only way to end this, they said, is for the government to address its root causes, such as landlessness, massive unemployment, inadequate social services, and widespread poverty and inequality.
“To frame this struggle as ‘terrorism’ and demand that it be denounced as such is to prejudice and foreclose prospects for a negotiated political settlement between the rebels and the government. We are still hopeful that parties would return to the peace table, if not in this administration, then in the next,” the Makabayan bloc said.