MANILA - The Senate workers' union on Friday said an intelligence official's accusations that they were spying for communist rebels have caused anxiety and fear among employees in the chamber.
National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) Director General Alex Paul Monteagudo's allegation that several members of the Senate union are affiliated with the communist movement is alarming, said Rosel Eugenio, president of Sandigan ng mga Empleyadong Nagkakaisa sa Adhikain ng Demokratikong Organisasyon (SENADO).
"Dati 'pag ikaw ay Senate employee, 'pag ipapakita mo ang ID mo, proud na proud ka pero ngayon ang iniisip mo, 'Hala, baka ako ay ma-check point," she told reporters in an online press conference.
(Before, when Senate employees present their IDs, they are very proud, but now we think, "I might be flagged at a checkpoint.")
"Ang epekto [ng pag re-red tag] ay hindi ka safe," she said.
(The red tagging makes us feel unsafe.)
Eugenio also noted that after their union was red tagged, there was a certain "Lyn" who called their office to ask for details about SENADO's members.
The caller said she was updating records for the House of Representatives, but when verified, those from the lower chamber said they did not know the caller, Eugenio said.
"Talagang may chilling effect sa mga empleyado," she said.
(There is really a chilling effect among employees.)
"Ang taas-taas ng anxiety ng mga empleyado dahil sa nangyaring ito," she said.
(The anxiety level of employees is really high because of this incident.)
The red tagging of the 800-strong Senate workers' union has placed the group in bad light, said Eugenio, who has been working in the chamber for 25 years.
"May isang galing sa Marines na bagong pasok sa Senado. Nire-recruit namin... Ang sagot niya, 'Hindi kami puwede sumali diyan kasi kayo ay union, kayo ay enemies of the state,'" she said.
(There is one new Senate worker who came from the Marines. We tried to recruit him... He said, "We can't join the union because you are enemies of the state.")
"Dapat labanan ang mga malisyosong pagbibintang sa amin bilang mga terorista... Kami ay unyonista, hindi terorista," she said.
(We have to fight malicious allegations that we are terrorists... We are unionists, not terrorists.)
Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III defended the Senate's union members, saying the group never included illegal demands in the collective bargaining agreements they filed in previous years.
"Inaral ko rin naman ang laman noon. Wala naman akong nakitang masamang hinihingi, abusadong hinihingi sa kontrata," said Pimentel, who served as Senate President in 2016.
(I studied the contents. I did not see any unreasonable demands in the contract.)
"Hindi ko nakikita san nanggagaling ang atake ngayon sa legitimate union ng Senate employees," he said.
(I don't see why they are attacking the legitimate union of Senate employees.)
Pimentel warned intelligence officials and other groups red tagging Senate employees to be careful with their allegations as senators would vouch for the integrity of the chamber's workers.
"Ilabas nila 'yung ebidensya nila, not just a mere label," Pimentel said.
(They should provide evidence, not just a mere label.)
"Hindi na kailangan ng 'eyes and ears' diyan dahil lahat [sa Senado] ay public document. Hindi ko naiintindihan anong use ng communist agents diyan to get information," he said.
(There is no need for "eyes and ears" in the Senate because all our documents are public. I don't understand why communists have to use agents there to get information.)
The Senate workers' union is studying if they should file a case against Monteagudo and Communications Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy for accusing their group of working for communists.
Several senators have been pushing for the passage of a bill that would impose penalties against red tagging.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III earlier said he is now inclined to support the bill after the NICA chief went after Senate workers.