Youth lawmaker confronts defense chief: Are government funds used in red-tagging?

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 08 2020 05:41 PM

MANILA — A member of the House of Representatives' progressive bloc on Tuesday confronted Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, accusing the official of "red tagging" activists and other government critics. 

In her interpellation of Lorenzana on the budget proposal for the Department of Defense (DND), Kabataan Party-list Rep. Sarah Elago brought up some of his office's social media posts that claimed that progressive lawmakers and other activists were linked to the communist insurgency. 

"The right to life, the right to liberty, and the right to security are... violated by the aforementioned practices... Disinformation based on vilification and inciting to hatred puts this representation and our membership at imminent risk of discrimination, hostility, and harm," Elago told the House panel. 

But Lorenzana defended the DND posts and added they have "documents" to back up their claims. 

"Hindi po sila magpa-publish kung wala silang basehan na kanilang pinapublishan ng ganiyan. Ito pong akusasyon na nagre-red tagging kami, mayroon pong basehan 'yan dahil marami naman kaming nakita at nakuhang mga dokumento," defense chief said. 

(They won't publish unless there is basis. This accusation that we are red-tagging, there is basis for what we post because we have a lot of documents.)

When Elago asked who manages the social media accounts and other digital platforms of the DND and how much was allocated for these units, Lorenzana could not provide a figure. 

"I do not know the details of that Mr. Chairman but I think that it is a joint operation between the PCOO (Presidential Communications Operations Office) at saka itong ating (and our) Civil Relations Service ng (of the) Armed Forces," Lorenzana said. 

During a confirmation hearing last month, a military official in Southern Luzon had denied that he has been labelling several activists and journalists as communist insurgents, saying it was the "duty of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to inform the people about the activities of these organizations."

The DND, inclusive of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, is seeking a P283.25 billion budget for 2021, almost P17 billion more than their current allocation from the government coffers.