Lacson ‘seriously’ considering bid to make red-tagging a crime
MANILA, Philippines — Senator Panfilo Lacson on Wednesday said he is “seriously considering” proposals to make red-tagging a crime after he led a Senate inquiry into the alleged propensity of military officers to tag critics as communists.
“I am seriously considering the recommendation to criminalize red-tagging as long as such legislation will not infringe on the bill of rights involving freedom of speech and expression,” Lacson, chair of the Senate defense panel, said in a message to reporters.
Lacson has led a series of hearings which looked into the alleged red-tagging by military officials against organizations, particularly lawmakers belonging to the Makabayan congressional bloc.
For Senator Risa Hontiveros, she said she would have to study the need for such a law that would criminalize red-tagging.
“I have to study that, kung necessary ba ‘yon to provide for that by law. Kasi the constitutional provisions alone should suffice yung freedom of conscience, freedom of association,” Hontiveros told reporters in an online interview.
(I have to study that, if a law providing for that would be necessary. Because Constitutional provisions alone should suffice, the freedom of conscience, freedom of association.)
Nevertheless, Hontiveros acknowledged the dangers of red-tagging and stressed that there should be opposition against such action regardless of whether or not there is a law criminalizing it.
“Meron din tayong bagong pasang anti-terrorism law na ikinababahala ng ng marami na it added to this environment na kung saan yung red-tagging ay parang running wild na na mismong si Presidente na ganun na ang ginawa. I suppose that’s why that law, sabi nga nung isang former chief justice columnist, ito na yung most assailed law in the Supreme Court in recent history,” the senator also said.
(There’s also this anti-terrorism law that many are raising concerns over that it added to this environment of red-tagging running wild that even the President has done it. I suppose that’s why that law, according to a former chief justice columnist, is the most assailed law in the Supreme Court in recent history.)
“I think mas mabuti, responsibilidad naming kahat sa gobyerno to cease-and-desist sa ganyang mga aksyon and to create an environment na may mutual respect, may tolerance para sa isa’t-isa, may pag-uphold ng rule of law,’ she added.
(I think it’s also better, as a responsibility of us in government to cease-and-desist in this kind of action and to create an environment where mutual respect can foster, there’s tolerance with each other and rule of law is upheld.)
Meanwhile, Senator Francis Pangilinan said criminalizing red-tagging is “worth looking into” with the supposed “penchant” of state forces for “red-tagging government dissenters.”
“[T]here must be complementary accountability for such acts that could constitute abuse of authority, political bias and disregard for free exercise of views,” he said in a statement.
“Red-tagged individuals have also become target of killings, harassment and threats, and the impunity persists because no one is punished for such acts,” he said.
Pangilinan, a lawyer, added that victims of red-tagging can opt to file administrative cases before the Ombudsman but said that such action “appears to have little dent.”
“Going to the court for a writ of amparo and writ of habeas data, which are both aimed at protecting one’s right to life, liberty, and security against being red-tagged is also an option, but has no punitive sanctions,” he said.
Earlier, Senate President Vicente Sotto suggested the filing of libel cases instead of criminalizing red-tagging.
“If we criminalize red-tagging, we have to criminalize narcissistic-tagging and fascist-tagging, while it falls in the category of libel,” he said during Tuesday’s Senate hearing on red-tagging.
According to Sotto, filing a bill that would criminalize red-tagging would be “difficult” to do at this time.
“E ‘di file-an na lang ng [Just file] libel. I think that should be food for thought for those who are offended by being called ‘Reds,’” the Senate president said.
“You may think about that instead of having Congress discuss and then file a bill criminalizing red-tagging, which at this point would be very difficult to do,” he added.
“Just because the Makabayan bloc cannot have it themselves, in spite of all the time and space that the committee had given them, not to mention the fact that I was even defending them at least a couple of times, they still have the temerity to accuse the senate of with hunting,” the senator said in his message.
“Looking for a scapegoat in the committee for their failure to address squarely the allegations of the former [New People’s Army] rebels could only indicate their inadequacy during the hearings,” he added.
He reiterated that his committee will collate all testimonies and documents from both sides and “come up with our conclusions and recommendations in our committee report.”
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