MANILA (UPDATE) — Several senators on Wednesday criticized an intelligence official who linked a Senate workers' union to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
In a Facebook post, National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) Director General Alex Paul Monteagudo had said the Sandigan ng mga Empleyadong Nagkakaisa sa Adhikain ng Demokratikong Organisasyon (SENADO) "serves as the eyes and ears" of the communist movement "to hijack government plans and programs."
"He must have been misinformed. I would be the first to sense of such if ever. I've been there since 1992," Senate President Vicente Sotto III told reporters when asked to comment on the issue.
He said he has asked Monteagudo to name members of the Senate workers' union who allegedly support the communist movement.
"He (Monteagudo) sent word saying they are just telling our people that the CPP has tentacles even in the halls of the Senate," Sotto said.
"I said I want NICA to give me the names of the employees and I will have them investigated," he said.
The Senate President said he wants to verify the information as he "thought it was fake news."
The Senate minority bloc condemned the red tagging of the Senate employees' union and called Monteagudo's post as "dangerous allegations to make."
The bloc is composed of Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, Sen. Leila de Lima, Sen. Risa Hontiveros, and Sen. Francis Pangilinan.
"Hindi lang ito pag-atake at paninira nang walang batayan sa mga empleyado, kundi mismong sa institusyon ng Senado na kanilang kinakatawan," the opposition senators said.
(This is not just a baseless attack on the employees, but also on the Senate, the institution which they represent.)
"We vehemently denounce government officials who continue to label, brand, vilify, and harass individuals and organizations such as SENADO as state enemies and subversives," they said.
But Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who authored the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, agreed that the Senate workers' union may have already been infiltrated by communists.
"I will agree with NICA DG Monteagudo but not totally," he said.
Not all members of the Senate employees' union serve as spies of communist rebels, said the former police general.
"As chairman of the Senate Committee on Accounts, I have had on many occasions taken the cudgels for them in terms of the Senate employees' benefits and additional allowances, always listening to their plight and concerns in spite of my knowledge of the infiltration within their ranks," he said.
Lacson said there is no need for the Senate leadership to act on Monteagudo's information.
"As long as their grievances are legitimate, reasonable and properly brought to our attention, we will listen and take the necessary and appropriate action," said Lacson, who earlier led Senate hearings on red tagging as chair of the Senate committee on national defense.
The Senate minority bloc called for the immediate passage of Drilon's Senate Bill No. 2121 which defines and outlines penalties for those who wrongfully accuse individuals of being part of the communist movement.
"We believe that the passage of this bill will serve as a deterrent against red tagging," the minority senators said.
"We should punish irresponsible officials who act as enablers of red tagging," they said.