Personalities from militant groups were a no-show at the Senate’s first hearing on alleged red-tagging and red-baiting on Tuesday morning.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who chaired the hearing as Senate defense committee chairman, said they sent notices to the progressive militant groups but they did not confirm their attendance.
“For the record, aside from official notices delivered by the Committee Secretariat last Oct. 30 to the different progressive militant groups – Bayan Muna, Alliance of Concerned Teachers, Kabataan, Gabriela, while properly received, did not confirm their attendance for still unknown reason until now,” he said at the start of the hearing.
He also said the Senate defense committee sent as well an open invitation last week to the representatives of the Makabayang Koalisyon ng Mamamayan (Makabayan) bloc of the House of Representatives to voluntarily attend the hearing.
The letter was coursed through House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, as the defense committee cannot issue the invitation directly to individual party-list representatives “in view of the inter-parliamentary courtesy existing between the two chambers,” he added.
But Lacson said they received a reply from former Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares requesting that another hearing be held so he may be given an opportunity to attend, “but without the presence of the members of the security sector, particularly Lt. Gen. Parlade.”
“The chair may have to discuss this with the members of the committee,” Lacson said.
However, Lacson noted the progressive political party lists were represented at the hearing by lawyer Maneeka Sarza.
Present at the hearing were representatives of the Defense and Interior Departments as well as the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP); the Executive Department.
In his opening statement, Lacson pointed out his committee takes no pleasure in conducting this public hearing because of the conflict of Filipinos against Filipinos.
“When no distinction has been made between an activist and a terrorist; an idealist and an extremist; a reformist and a subversive, we risk putting everyone under a cloud of suspicion; and our society in a constant state of insecurity,” he said.
On the other hand, Lacson said the alleged red-tagging is a crisis in itself.
“Rightly or wrongly, it stirs public outcry and imperils our conscientious effort to uphold and protect human rights in the country while strengthening our law enforcement measures,” he said.
He added these issues most unfortunately transpire in the foreground of the passage of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 and the vigorous efforts of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), “both of which give our military and police personnel the necessary tools to fight terrorism on one hand as well as local communist insurgency on the other.”
“Hence, as I have repeatedly done in the recent past, let me be forthright by saying that as one of the authors and the principal sponsor of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, we ensure that the same is applied correctly and appropriately with utmost respect for the rule of law, and that the Bill of Rights under the 1987 Constitution will always be the backbone of this legislation,” he said.
He added the hearing seeks to craft proper guidelines to prevent any misunderstanding between the public and our law enforcers and ultimately, to ensure the protection of the constitutional rights of the people in general.