MANILA - Sen. Panfilo Lacson on Wednesday called Makabayan bloc lawmakers "a bunch of losers" after one of the Leftist party-list representatives said the Senate investigation on red tagging was a "venue for witch hunting."
Lacson was referring to the comment of Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate in a press conference held on the same day the Senate called for the third and final hearing on red tagging, where both Makabayan coalition members and military officials were invited.
"Just because the Makabayan bloc cannot have it themselves, in spite of all the time and space that the committee had given them, not to mention the fact that I was even defending them at least a couple of times, they still have the temerity to accuse the senate of witch hunting," Lacson told reporters in a text message.
"Looking for a scapegoat is normal for people who feel they were a bunch of losers," he said in a tweet.
"Looking for a scapegoat in the committee for their failure to address squarely the allegations of the former NPA (New People's Army) rebels could only indicate their inadequacy during the hearings," he said, referring to the armed wing of the communist movement.
Lacson, a former Philippine National Police chief, had told former rebels who testified at the hearings that their allegations that some lawmakers were members of the communist party would not stand in court without concrete evidence.
The senator also urged military officials who attended the hearing to file formal charges against lawmakers they have been tagging as Reds, instead of hastily accusing public personalities in different venues.
"As a matter of fact, I am seriously considering the recommendation to criminalize red tagging as long as such legislation will not infringe on the bill of rights involving freedom of speech and expression," he said.
Zarate, in a statement, said his comment was not aimed at Lacson's committee.
"I was clearly referring to the NTF-ELCAC and the security sector," he said, in reference to the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, whose officials had been implicated in red tagging lawmakers and celebrities.
"In fact, we acknowledge Sen. Lacson and the committee's efforts to give us an opportunity to highlight the plight of the victims, to state our position and vehement objections on the red-tagging and terrorist-tagging issue," he said.
"We pointed out, though, that the Senate hearings were being used by the NTF-ELCAC as a platform to further vilify us with sweeping and baseless accusations, false statements and malicious innuendos," he said.
Lacson said his Senate Committee on National Defense would "collate all the testimonies and documents" presented in the hearing before drafting its "conclusions and recommendations" on the red tagging issue.