MANILA - Sen. Panfilo Lacson on Tuesday told military officials to present in court concrete evidence to establish that several party-list members were affiliated with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People's Army (NPA).
The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict has been presenting several alleged NPA defectors who claimed that Makabayan Coalition lawmakers were part of the communist movement, citing instances where they allegedly saw the politicians in some of their underground meetings.
"Ang contention ninyo, member sila ng CPP. Ang burden of proof, nasa inyo," Lacson, a former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, said during the third and final Senate hearing on red tagging.
(Your contention is that they are members of the CPP. The burden of proof is on you.)
The military's star witness, self-confessed former rebel Jeffrey Celiz, said they could not obtain sufficient documentary evidence as communist insurgents usually use code names and do not have identification cards.
"Preponderance, correlation and pattern of experience, testimonies and practices will also form as evidence," Celiz said.
"Ang isang sindikato na grupo ay hindi kailangan na sa papel mo lahat i-prove," said Celiz, whose name was also mentioned in President Rodrigo Duterte's drug matrix.
(With a syndicate, you cannot prove everything on paper.)
Alleged former NPA member Noel Legaspi backed Celiz, saying that their claims should not be dismissed just because they lack evidence.
"Napakaraming nagkasala na hindi napatawan ng parusa dahil kulang ang ebidensya, pero hindi ibig sabihin na hindi totoo 'yung pangyayari," Legaspi said.
(There were a lot of criminals who were not penalized due to lack of evidence, but that doesn't mean that what they did was not true.)
Former Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Teddy Casiño slammed the security sector's logic, saying what they were doing was the actual definition of red tagging.
"In every turn, he accuses me that I am a CPP member. Eh, siya mismo nagsabi na hindi niya mapatunayan," Casiño said, referring to Celiz.
"They have their experiences. I am not in a position to counter that. But from their experiences, for them to conclude na ako rin ay dating kasama nila (that I am their former comrade)..., to conclude that I am engaged in the arm struggle, to conclude that I am doing something illegal, that is guilt by association, that is trial by publicity," he said.
Makabayan Coalition chair Neri Colmenares condemned the military and their assets' arguments, saying these "sweeping generalizations" should not be allowed in any forum.
"'Yung level ng (The level of their) standard of evidence nila is if it walks like a duck, if it talks like a duck, therefore it must be a duck... Nobody should red tag anybody on the ground on how he walks or talks," Colmenares, a lawyer, said.
"Kung kayo may karanasan po, 'wag niyo kami isangkot sa karanasan ninyo," he said.
(If you have experiences, don't drag us with you.)
Lacson told military officials to bring their allegations before the judiciary.
"At the end of the day, the only venue that can interpret if there was a violation is the court," Lacson said.
"If you believe you have enough evidence to secure a conviction, then go ahead. Nobody is stopping you. In fact, they (Makabayan coalition members) are challenging you," he said.
National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Jr. responded in the affirmative, telling Lacson that they would "indeed... go to court."