Senate workers feel ‘fear, anxiety’ after being Red-tagged by intel chief
MANILA, Philippines — Allegations made by the chief of the government’s intelligence agency triggered fear and anxiety among Senate workers, whose union has been accused of being the “eyes and ear” of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) in the upper chamber.
“Hindi kami ini-spare dito. Kaya nakakatakot, may chilling effect sa mga empleyado [We were not spared. That’s why it’s scary, there’s a chilling effect among employees],” Rosel Eugenio, president of Sandigan ng mga Empleyadong Nagkakaisa sa Adhikain ng Demokratikong Organisasyon (Senado), said in an online press conference Friday.
“Dati ‘pag ikaw ay Senate employee, pinapakita mo proud na proud ka na ikaw ay galing sa Senate. Pero ngayon, ang iniisip mo ‘Hala, baka ako’y ma-check point dito.’ ‘Yun ‘yung epekto na hindi ka safe, ‘yung environment na hindi ka safe kaya ang taas-taas ng anxiety ng mga empleyado dahil sa nangyaring ito,” she added.
(Before, when you’re a Senate employee, you’re proud of where you work, But now, you will think ‘Oh no, I might get stopped at this checkpoint.’ That’s the effect, we fear for our safety, that’s why anxiety is very high among the employees because of what happened.)
Earlier, National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) Director-General Alex Monteagudo posted on Facebook that Senado, an affiliate of Red-tagged government workers’ union Courage, has been “the eyes and the ears” of the CPP as well as its armed-wing New People’s Army and political body National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) in the Senate.
READ: Sotto says NICA chief may be ‘misinformed’ on claims CPP-NPA has spies at Senate
Eugenio, who has been serving in the upper chamber for 25 years, said the union she leads addresses legitimate labor concerns raised by its 800 members.
“Napakababaw na dahilan ‘yung usapin lang na affiliation. Sa amin kasi ang inaasikaso talaga namin ‘yung rights and welfare ng mga employees. Sa totoo lang, ang point of unity naman with Courage ay usapin lang ng sweldo, usapin ng security of tenure, usapin ng paga-address sa pandemic at ‘yung epekto nito sa government employees. ‘Yung mga bagay na ‘yun which [are] legitimate [issues],” she pointed out.
(Affiliation is a shallow reason for this. For us, we are busy addressing the rights and welfare of the employees. Honestly, our only point of unity with Courage are the issues on pay, security of tenure as well as how to address the pandemic and its effects on government employees. Those things, which are legitimate issues.)
“Hindi kami terorista [We are not terrorists],” she even stressed at one point during the press conference.
READ: Senate workers’ union claims being red-tagged for denouncing DILG memo
One of Senado’s board members, Marilou Binanitan, said that employees now fear being stopped at checkpoints following the allegations made against the union.
“Ang impact po nito sa aming mga employees, isang napakalaking fear and anxiety sa aming buhay sa aming pamilya. Natatakot kaming pag lumabas kami sa kalye, bigla na lang kaming i-check point, huhulihin ng pulis na hindi namin alam. Dagdag na aalahanin dala ng pandemya. Hindi kami makalabas nang malaya, ‘di ka makapagtrabaho ng regular. Napakataas pa ng mga bilihin,” she said.
(The impact of this is that there are extreme fear and anxiety among us, in our lives as well as for our family. We are afraid to go to the streets, what if we get stopped at a checkpoint, get arrested by police, we don’t know. This adds to the challenges of the pandemic that we are restricted. We can’t work regularly. The prices of commodities are also high.)
“Bakit kami ang sini-single out [Why are we being singled out]? Destroying the integrity of the senate employees is not only destroying us but the Senate as a whole, as an institution,” she added.
She said such claims are “demoralizing” among public servants like herself and other Senate employees. “Kami po [We are] public servants at hindi terorista [and not terrorists].”
Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel, who was present during the press conference, vouched for the legitimacy of Senado and its initiatives to address the employees’ concerns.
“Sa maikling panahon na ako’y naging Senate president, nakilala ko yang organization ng Senado kasi sila yung kausap ko as the legitimate representatives of the Senate employees,” he said.
(In my short time as Senate president, I was able to get to know the organization of Senado because they are the ones that I have been talking to as the legitimate representatives of the Senate employees.)
“So mag-ingat ingat din po tayo sa mga ganyang accusation lalu na sa long-existing organization na everyday ka-interact, kilala namin,” he added.
(Please exercise caution when making these accusations, especially against a long-existing organization that we interact with every day.)
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