Zarate protests PH report citing Makabayan groups as ‘CPP-created party-lists’
MANILA, Philippines — Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate on Friday called out the government’s report on the Philippine Human Rights Situationer in May that described four left-leaning party-lists as groups created by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
During a House committee on appropriations hearing on the proposed 2021 budget of the Department of Justice (DOJ), Zarate took note of the document uploaded on the DOJ website which called Bayan Muna, Anakpawis, Gabriela, and the Alliance of Concerned Teachers as “CPP-created party-lists.”
“In this report, malinaw po ang nakalagay dito (what is stated here is clear) and I cannot just take this sitting down,” Zarate said.
“The sentence there is CPP-created. I take exception, Mr. Secretary and Mr. Chair. We are not created by the CPP—the Bayan Muna, ACT Teachers party-list, and Gabriela. We are legally registered party-lists and we were duly elected by our constituencies. So I take exception,” he added.
The document, which was consolidated by the Department of Foreign Affairs based on information provided by various concerned government agencies, provides a comprehensive account of the human rights situation in the Philippines, including the country’s human rights policies, mechanisms, advocacies, and accomplishments.
Zarate said he sounded the alarm over the matter as the DOJ is involved in the consolidation of the report, and asked if red-tagging is the framework now being adopted by the department.
In response, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said he is not personally aware of any report authored by the DOJ that describes the four party-lists as groups created by the CPP. He then asked Undersecretary for Law Enforcement Adrian Sugay to instead respond to Zarate’s query.
But like Guevarra, Sugay replied he is also unaware of that portion of the document.
“As far as we are concerned, wala namang (there is no) red-tagging or what the DOJ is part of,” he said.
Zarate was quick to dispute this, saying the document is very clear in linking the concerned party-list organizations to the CPP.
“This is not a simple case of calling us names. There are grave implications knowing for a fact that there is now a terrorism law,” he stressed.
Justice Undersecretary Markk Perete then explained that the participation of the DOJ in the drafting of the situationer was related only to its activities by virtue of the Administrative Order No. 35, which created an inter-agency committee to investigate extrajudicial killings and other politically-motivated violence.
“The report was consolidated I think by DFA and we were asked to disseminate the complete report. On the part of the DOJ, we would like to reiterate that in fact there is no such policy against progressive groups or even those which have been mentioned in the report,” Perete said.
However, Zarate pointed out that there was “passive endorsement” on the part of the DOJ since it was uploaded on the department’s website.
He added that the DOJ “cannot just dichotomize the issues contained in that whole report.”
“Hindi pwedeng sabihin na hanggang AO 35 lang kami because the report is a collective report of the Philippine government and since you are part of the report-gathering, your inputs are being taken. Malaki ang implication nito dahil official stand ito ng Philippine government and you are the department tasked to review cases,” said Zarate.
(You cannot just say your involvement was only as far as AO 35 because the report is a collective report of the Philippine government and since you are part of the report-gathering, your inputs are being taken. The implication of this is huge because this is the official stand of the Philippine government and you are the one tasked to review cases.)
Guevarra then responded by saying the DOJ has taken due note of Zarate’s concern and assured that the DOJ is not adopting such a policy on red-tagging.
“We’ll take another look at this report. As I explained earlier, that was upon the request of the DFA and if there is anything that we need to clarify para ‘wag naman maisip na (so that there would not be a notion that) everything that is written there is also being adopted by the DOJ as an agency, then we will issue an appropriate statement if necessary to note of the proper clarification,” he added.
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