MANILA — The government body created to weed out communist insurgency in the Philippines on Tuesday bared its determination to seek the disqualification of the Makabayan bloc's party-list groups before the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) vice chairman and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Jr. said the task force is confident there's enough evidence to bar the bloc from running for public office for future polls.
“Yes, sinabi ko nga [before] na option 'yan… pero ginagawa na namin yan. It is not only an option now but we have firmed up our move and we will do that… you can be sure that we will go towards that direction as soon as possible," he said.
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier went on a tirade against the Makabayan bloc, composed of the Bayan Muna, ACT, Gabriela and Kabataan party-list groups. He accused them as “fronts” for the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army and National Democratic Front.
"Itong mga legal fronts ng komunista, lahat 'yan, Makabayan, Bayan, they are all legal fronts, Gabriela... (All the legal fronts of the communists, all of them, Makabayan, Bayan, they are all legal fronts, Gabriela.) We are not red-tagging you. We are identifying you as members in a grand conspiracy comprising all the legal fronts that they have organized, headed by the NDF," Duterte said in his weekly public address on Monday.
"You are accusing us of red-tagging you. No. The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is very correct. You are being identified as being members of the Communist (Party of the Philippines). Alam namin. 'Yun ang totoo. Hindi red-tagging. (We know. That's the truth. That is not red-tagging)," he said.
INTERNATIONAL HUMANITARIAN LAWS
Duterte's tirade came after Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Eufemia Cullamat's daughter Jevilyn, a medic of the New People's Army, was killed in a clash between soldiers and communist rebels in Marihatag town, Surigao del Sur last week.
The AFP drew flak after a picture Cullamat's remains, posed as though she were still carrying a rifle, and with soldiers displaying her corpse alongside firearms, made rounds online.
Jevilyn, 22, was the lone fatality during the encounter between the military and communist rebels in Surigao del Sur.
The Makabayan bloc accused the military and defense deparment of violating international humanitarian laws in the handling of Jevilyn's death.
Rep. Cullamat condemned the military for "parading" the remains of her youngest daughter who was slain in an encounter with state forces over the weekend.
"Pinaslang na siya, ginawa pang tropeo ng digma, para lang magamit sa kanilang paninira sa aming tribo, sa aming pamilya, at sa aming organisasyon," said Cullamat, among sectoral lawmakers accused of being members of the CPP.
"Itigil ninyo ang panggigipit sa amin. Igalang ninyo ang namatay, ang aming pagluluksa," she said in a video statement played during the Senate's third hearing on red tagging.
Cullamat, who has denied being part of the CPP, also slammed the military for repeatedly describing her daughter as someone who was misled into joining the armed struggle.
"Hindi siya tanga na madaling madala, lalong hindi tipo na magpapaloko o bulag na susunod, kaya hindi ko kailanman matatanggap ang mga paratang na siya ay nalinlang lamang," she said.
But the NTF-ELCAC insists “it is the CPP-NPA-NDF” which is guilty.
Esperon and Southern Luzon Command chief Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. claimed the NPA is recruiting “child warriors” and while using landmines, “which can also harm civilians”, in its tactical offensives against state forces.
The military said it has submitted to Philippine and United Nations human rights commissions a list of 544 “child warriors” or minors allegedly recruited by the CPP-NPA-NDF.
In the case of Jevilyn, the NTF-ELCAC maintained there is no one to blame for her demise but her “family of NPAs”.
Esperon and Parlade tagged two of Rep. Cullamat’s late siblings as members of the communist movement. Her husband and another sibling, allegedly also members of the CPP-NPA, are currently incarcerated.
“Jevilyn [was a victim] of her family’s exploitation… What do we expect from a family of CPP/NPA members?” asked Parlade.--With a report from Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News