Bayan Muna solons frown on AFP bid for dialogue over raids
MANILA, Philippines — Progressive party-list representatives on Sunday said they felt insulted over the offer of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to hold a dialogue with lawmakers regarding the recent raids on the offices of organizations tagged as alleged fronts of the communist rebels.
AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo earlier said they can explain to lawmakers, who expressed opposition to a supposed crackdown of leftist groups, the rationale behind the raids and how the groups allegedly recruit minors and purportedly use human and indigenous people’s rights issues to their own favor.
But Bayan Muna Reps. Carlos Zarate and Ferdinand Gaite were not having it.
“Sa tono ng pananalita ni Brig. Gen. Edgardo Arevalo, ay mukhang minamaliit nya ang kakayahang umintindi ng mga kongresista na pumirma sa petisyon na nababahala na sa crackdown laban sa mga progresibo, oposisyon at mga kritikal sa administrasyon,” Zarate said in a statement.
“For his information, the representatives who signed the petition read and studied it thoroughly before they signed the document. Hindi ho sila y’ung tipo na pirma lang ng pirma,” he added.
(By the tone of Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo, it seems he is underestimating the ability of lawmakers who signed the petition against the crackdown on progressive groups to understand. They’re not the type who would just sign documents.)
At least 64 House members signed a petition asking state forces to end the raids against the groups. This developed after Bayan Muna, Gabriela, National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW), and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) offices in Negros Occidental and Metro Manila were searched by authorities.
The raid even prompted Metro Manila-based leaders of the organizations to voluntarily ask barangay (village) authorities to search their offices and houses in order to quell any suspicions of rebel-related activities. The military has insisted they have proof to link the groups to the Communist Party of the Philippines’ armed wing, New People’s Army.
Meanwhile, Zarate dismissed the dialogue as another opportunity for law enforcers to present the fabricated evidence and supposed baseless accusations against the groups.
Several critics and watchdogs like the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) sounded the alarm after the raids, raising the point that it may be used as a way to curtail freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.
Most of the groups raided by state forces have criticized the policies of President Rodrigo Duterte, like the war on drugs, contractualization, lack of agriculture reforms, and a supposed de facto martial law across the country.
Gaite further claimed progressive groups’ offices are still being probed upon by law enforcers. He then accused state agents of waiting for the proper time to allegedly plant evidence.
“We received reports of continued surveillance of our offices, and, apparently, these undemocratic forces are just waiting to plant evidence on our offices, so we must remain vigilant,” Gaite said.
“These red-tagging and attacks have to stop and those implementing these draconian policies will eventually be held to account,” Zarate also said.
Edited by KGA
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