MANILA— It would be "hypocritical" for communist rebels to deny that they have "legal fronts," Malacañang said Tuesday, as lawmakers investigated the government's alleged red-tagging of several celebrities and administration critics.
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) sustains its armed struggle through the New People’s Army (NPA) while also leading "political" organizations, said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque.
"Hindi po madi-deny iyan. Kaplastikan po ng CPP-NPA kung sasabihin nilang wala silang mga legal fronts na tinatawag," he told reporters.
(It cannot be denied. It's hypocritical if the CPP-NPA will say that they do not have so-called legal fronts.)
Roque made the statement in reaction to rights monitor Amnesty International's call on the government to end "its vicious and at times deadly practice of red-tagging" or the practice of labeling groups or individuals perceived to be critical of the government as “communists” or “terrorists.”
"Instead of maligning and endangering people for the lawful exercise of their freedom of expression, the government should seek to address legitimate criticism of its policies and practices," said the group.
"In the prevailing context where red-tagged individuals become the targets of harassment, threats and even killings, courts and pertinent government agencies must take concrete steps to ensure the safety and protection of these individuals," it added.
Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr., a spokesman of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), recently made headlines for allegedly red-tagging actress Liza Soberano, beauty queen Catriona Gray, and the sister of actress Angel Locsin.
The Senate defense committee on Tuesday opened its inquiry on the alleged red-tagging by Parlade and other military officers.
President Rodrigo Duterte wants state troops to "keep quiet" and do their jobs instead of red-tagging, Roque earlier said.
The Commission on Human Rights has reminded the government that the repeal of the Anti-Subversion Law in 1992 meant that being part of the Communist Party of the Philippines was no longer illegal.
"The challenge before those who accuse is to prove allegations of any illegal act before fair and competent courts," CHR spokesperson Jacqueline Ann de Guia had said in May.