No need to criminalize ‘Red-tagging’ – Senate panel report
MANILA, Philippines — There is no longer a need to criminalize Red-tagging in the Philippines since there are already legal remedies available to an aggrieved party.
This recommendation was contained in a 66-page report of the Senate committee on national defense that investigated the alleged Red-baiting by the military.
The report was signed by 13 senators, including panel head Senator Panfilo Lacson, and Senator Risa Hontiveros, who signed with dissent.
“Legal remedies, as exhaustively discussed in this Committee Report, are sufficient and available for personalities or groups that have been the subject of the so called ‘red-tagging,’ and which some of them have already availed as evidenced by the cases filed in the Ombudsman,” the report said.
“Being merely a concept without a definite meaning set within the bounds of the law on the one hand, and the presence of adequate legal remedies available to the aggrieved party on the other, this committee is of the view that criminalizing ‘red-tagging’ is no longer necessary since those who were or may be at the receiving end of red-tagging may avail of the legal remedies under existing laws if the alleged red-tagging violated their constitutional rights,” it added.
Instead of just issuing “general denials,” the panel also recommended that progressive groups should address their alleged involvement with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).
The report particularly urged the Makabayan bloc from the House of Representatives “to openly and strongly denounce the CPP-NPA-NDF for its actual acts of aggression against the duly constituted government and against the people to disassociate themselves from the armed struggle.”
“As elected representatives of the marginalized sectors, it is incumbent upon them to advocate the interest of their respective sectors in the parliament within the bounds of the law. Their leadership should exemplify among their members and constituents the pursuit of change by ways of peace including legal protests and related mass actions,” it said.
While the progressive groups were quick to condemn the alleged human rights violations of the military and police, they refused to do the same when the panel asked them to, the report noted.
“This Committee recognizes that they have no legal responsibility, as freedom of expression includes the right not to speak,” it said.
“However, it is the position of the Committee that, as government officials who have taken their oath to uphold and defend the Constitution, they have at the very least the moral obligation to condemn the atrocities perpetrated by the CPP-NPA-NDF.”
“They should publicly reproach the CPP-NPA-NDF with the same tenacity they devote in calling out the government for, its shortcomings in various issues facing our nation and demanding reforms on almost every aspect of governance,” the panel also said.
Aside from Lacson and Hontiveros, those who signed the report were Senators Francis Tolentino, Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa, Manny Pacquiao, Lito Lapid, Sonny Angara, Ramon “Bong” Revillar Jr., Cynthia Villar, Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, Sherwin Gatchalian, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, and Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto.
According to Hontiveros, she signed with dissent “to the argument that Red-tagging does not violate human rights just because there are existing laws that provide legal redress.”
However, she said she concurs with the United Nation’s observations that Red-tagging has a “chilling effect on the legitimate work of human rights defenders” and has “muddled the space for debate, disagreement/ for challenging state institutions and policies.”
The panel report has yet to be brought for plenary discussion.
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