National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon on Thursday dared congressmen belonging to the Makabayan Bloc at the House of Representatives “to show courage and face us in another legislative hearing to show who is telling the truth about the red-tagging issue.”
He branded the Makabayan solons’ absence in the Senate hearing “suspicious.”
“Your absence at the Senate hearing caused me to suspect that you are willing to admit only a little of your identities. If you can not admit it, then it is okay with us,” he said.
Esperon, vice chairman of the National Task Force End Local Communist Armed Conflict, said the hearing could have been “the best opportunity for both camps to clarify things about red-tagging.”
The Makabayan bloc, composed of party-list Reps. Carlos Isagani Zarate, Eufemia Cullamat and Ferdinand Gaite of Bayan Muna; Arlene Brosas of Gabriela; France Castro of ACT Teachers and Sarah Jane Elago of Kabataan sent a letter to Sen. Panfilo Lacson explaining the reason for their absence in the hearing and accused Esperon’s group of using the avenue to continue linking them to the New People’s Army.
They were represented by lawyer Maneeka Asistol Sarza who said the militant lawmakers were busy with the relief operation for the victims of Typhoon Rolly.
During the Senate hearing, Esperon clarified that the NTF-ELCAC never red-tagged the Makabayan legislators, adding that the term itself came from the communist organization.
“We are accused of ‘red-tagging’ front organizations by their very own mouthpieces. To them I pose these questions: Why have they not questioned Jose Maria Sison when he himself identified these organizations as part of the bigger organ of the Communist Party of the Philippines? Sison was specific when he named BAYAN, Gabriela, Alliance of Concerned Teachers, League of Filipino Students, and Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas as well as the Kilusang Mayo Uno as part of his national democratic revolution,” he added.
“Even the United Nations Security Council, in Resolution 1373 of 2001, specified that the CPP-NPA is a terrorist organization. The European Union, the United States, and New Zealand have also identified the CPP/NPA as a terrorist organization,” Esperon said.
Meanwhile, former party-list lawmaker Teddy Casiño denied what he described as “unsubstantiated allegations” that he is a member of the communist insurgency movement.
“I was not recruited to the communist party. I am not a member of the communist party. I am a national democrat. I have a socialist perspective,” Casiño told a television interview.
“I believe in the many teachings of Marx but does that make me a member of the communist party? Does that make me a member of the New People’s Army? Does that make me a terrorist?” said Casiño, who used to represent the progressive group Bayan Muna in Congress.
Casiño was reacting to an accusation made by Jeffrey “Ka Eric” Celiz that he was a member of the Communist Party of the Philippines.
Celiz, who claims to be a former member of the armed communist movement, was the military’s star witness in a Senate hearing Tuesday on red-tagging.
As a former national president of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines, Casiño said he knew Celiz nearly three decades ago as a member of a student publication in Iloilo.
“On the basis of my being the national president of the College Editors Guild, he makes this incredible jump that therefore I’m a ranking leader of the Communist Party of the Philippines, which is not true at all and I deny that,” Casiño said.
Casiño also called on government forces to stop red-tagging individuals and organizations fighting for legitimate causes without presenting evidence as these imperil their lives.
“They’re actually tagging us as terrorists. But the question is, what terrorist acts have we committed? Is fighting for land reform a terrorist act? Is organizing labor unions a terrorist act? Is fighting against large-scale mining a terrorist act? Is defending the West Philippine Sea a terrorist act?” he said.
Casiño maintained that the Bayan Muna party-list does not espouse the armed overthrow of the government. Instead, the group is pushing for agrarian reform, labor rights, women equality and environment protection, among others.
“We are not engaged in the armed overthrow of the state and we don’t resort to arms to achieve those objectives,” he said.
“Ang trabaho namin is to organize sectors, to empower them so they are able to fight for their rights,” he said.
Self-exiled communist leader Jose Maria Sison on Wednesday denied that he identified progressive groups as communist fronts amid allegations he was to blame for red-tagging.
He accused the military of splicing a 1988 video of him in a forum in Belgium to make it appear that groups such as Bayan Muna, Gabriela and Alliance of Concerned Teachers were allied to the CPP’s cause.
Sison said that legal democratic forces were different from the armed revolutionary underground.