A balanced Senate committee report

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    ‘… the “recklessness in making inaccurate and inconsistent public pronouncements causes not only damage to the reputation of those identified, but also weakens the credibility of the government in safeguarding the security of the State.”’

    AFTER conducting three marathon public hearings on the twin issues of red-tagging and alleged involvement of students, professors, organizations and members of the House of Representatives in the illegal activities of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army, Sen. Panfilo Lacson released this week a committee report signed by him and 10 other senators.

    We find the report “balanced and fair” because the committee based its recommendations on facts, data and pronouncements culled from the hearings, direct from the resource persons.

    The panel noted that leftist groups were quick to condemn the human rights violations of government security forces, but adamantly refused to do the same when asked by the senators to denounce and disown the Communist Party, New People’s Army, and the armed struggle. Still, the senators recognized that they have no legal responsibility, “as freedom of expression includes the right not to speak.’’

    It is different, however, in the case of the so-called Makabayan bloc of congressmen who are duly elected by the people and who vowed to defend the Constitution. (The Philippines’ 1987 Constitution, not the constitution of the Communist Party).

    The committee said these lawmakers “have at the very least the moral obligation to condemn the atrocities perpetrated by the CPP, NPA, NDF (National Democratic Front).” The panel cited United Nations Security Council Resolution No. 1566 that explicitly affirms the need to condemn in the strongest terms all acts of terrorism irrespective of their motivation, whenever and by whomsoever committed, as one of the most serious threats to peace and security.

    The Lacson committee insisted that the Makabayan bloc lawmakers “should publicly reproach the CPP-NPA-NDF with the same tenacity they devote in calling out the government for its shortcomings in various issues facing our nation and demanding reforms on almost every aspect of governance.”

    ‘’As elected representatives of the marginalized sectors, it is incumbent upon them to advocate the interest of their respective sectors in the parliament within the bounds of the law. Their leadership should exemplify among their members and constituents the pursuit of change by ways of peace including legal protests and related mass actions,’’ the panel said.

    The committee report also chided the security sector, reminding the military that “since life, liberty, and property are at stake, the mandate of being the protector of the State carries with it the sacred responsibility of making sure that every action of the security sector is founded on strong information.’’ The Senate panel wanted the Armed Forces to strengthen its intelligence gathering and analysis capability to ensure that every information used is indeed verified and actionable, even as it affirmed that red-tagging need not be criminalized because there are enough legal remedies for whoever feels that he/she is aggrieved.

    With reference to the controversial alleged red-tagging of several known personalities by Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr., chief of the AFP Southern Luzon Command and spokesperson of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), the panel said the “recklessness in making inaccurate and inconsistent public pronouncements causes not only damage to the reputation of those identified, but also weakens the credibility of the government in safeguarding the security of the State.”

    Even before the release of this committee report, General Parlade has shown his gentlemanly gesture of reining in criticism that borders on the personal. It is now the chance of the so-called Makabayan bloc to respond to the Senate panel’s recommendations.