MANILA - Several former and current party-list lawmakers on Tuesday categorically denied that they are members of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing the New People's Army (NPA) but refused to condemn the atrocities committed by communist rebels in different parts of the country.
While Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, Kabataan Party-list Rep. Sarah Elago, and former Bayan Muna representative Neri Colmenares belied allegations that they were sitting as legal fronts of the communist movement, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan spokesperson, former Bayan Muna lawmaker Teddy Casiño, said communist insurgents should not be considered as state "enemies."
"We may not agree with their program, we may not agree with the way they are pushing their agenda but ang attitude namin sa kanila ay (our attitude with them is) we engage because we recognize that their struggles are rooted in legitimate issues and grievances of our people," Casiño said when Sen. Panfilo Lacson asked if they were ready to condemn the insurgents.
"To simply denounce them as enemies, it closes the door to a healthier engagements... We do not consider them as enemies, we consider them as fellow Filipinos na dapat kausapin (that should be engaged in dialogue)," he told a Senate hearing on the alleged red-tagging of several personalities.
Lacson said he could not reconcile why some lawmakers who were elected into office and now part of the government could not stand with state forces in condemning NPA's atrocities.
"If I was not part of the government, then I'm free not to denounce them, but I'm in that government," he said, referring to the House of Representatives' Makabayan bloc members.
Communications Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy chimed in, saying it was alarming that some government officials refuse to denounce the communist rebels' illegal acts.
"Seryoso po ito na ang mga kongresista mismo ay ayaw nilang kondenahin ang dapat kondenahin," said Badoy, who is being accused of red tagging government dissenters and even news organizations who reported about an activist organization's relief operations for typhoon victims.
(That some lawmakers refuse to condemn what should be condemned is a serious matter.)
Those who "are engaged in rebellion" should not be judged as enemies of the state if their struggle is rooted in valid social issues, Casiño said.
"Ang tingin namin ay ginawa nila 'yun dahil hindi sila nasasapatan," he said.
(We think they are doing that because they think that what the government is doing is not enough.)
"If that is what we believe in, it should be respected," he said.
Discussions on the issue were suspended as the Senate session hall had to be disinfected shortly before the chamber's plenary session.
The Senate investigation on red tagging is expected to resume next week.