NATIONAL Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon on Wednesday dared the Makabayan bloc to show courage and face them in another congressional hearing to show who are telling the truth about red-tagging issue.
Esperon criticized the Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives that include party-list lawmakers from Bayan Muna Reps. Carlos Isagani Zarate, Eufemia Cullamat and Ferdinand Gaite, ACT-Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro, Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas, and Kabataan Rep. Sarah Elago.
“At dahil sa hindi ninyo pagpunta sa hearing ng Senado ay nagkakaroon ako ng hinala na kaunti na lang ang gusto ninyo aminin kung sino talaga kayo. Kung hindi ninyo maamin okay lang sa amin,” Espero said.
According to Esperon, vice chairman of the National Task Force End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), the congressional hearing could be the best opportunity for both camps to clarify things about red-tagging.
“Eh lagi nyo sinasabi na fake news kami, Eh kayo hindi lang kayo fake news, no news pa kayo. No show pala. Eh anong mas mahirap? Yung no show o ‘yung talagang gustong magpakita doon,” Esperon added.
The Makabayan bloc sent a letter to Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson explaining the reason for their absence in the hearing and accused Esperon’s group of using this avenue to continue linking them to the New People’s Army (NPA).
They were represented by Atty. Maneeka Asistol Sarza who said that the militant lawmakers are preoccupied with the relief operations for the victims of Typhoon Rolly.
During the Senate hearing, Esperon clarified that the NTF-ELCAC never red-tagged the Makabayan solons stressing that the term itself came from the communist organization.
“We are accused of “red-tagging” front organizations by their very own mouthpieces. To them I pose these questions: Why have they not questioned Jose Maria Sison when he himself identified these organizations as part of the bigger organ of the Communist Party of the Philippines? Sison was specific when he named BAYAN, Gabriela, Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), League of Filipino Students, and Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas as well as the Kilusang Mayo Uno as part of his national democratic revolution,” Esperon further said.
The official also pointed out that even the United Nations Security Council, under Resolution No. 1373 of 2001, specifies that the CPP-NPA is a terrorist organization. Further, the governments of the European Union, United States, and New Zealand have identified the CPP/NPA as a terrorist organization.
ZARATE CALLS TO DEFUND NTF-ELCAC
Zarate said calls for “defunding the red-tagging and fake news spreading on the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) and realigning its budget for relief operations to typhoon-ravaged communities would be very welcome indeed.”
“If we are to take the P19.1 billion being asked for by the NTF-ELCAC and use it to make relief packs, we can have at least 38.2 million packs for the more than two million people affected by Super Typhoon Rolly and even that of Typhoon Quinta,” Zarate said.
“The relief packs should contain at least eight kilos of rice, 10 canned goods, five sachets of 3-in-1 coffee and five sachets of powdered cereal drink among others and this should last at the minimum for three days for a family of five,” he said.
“Our people, especially in the Bicol region, are so devastated that it would take months and even years for them to recover. If realigned, funds from the NTF-ELCAC can also be used to build the houses and infrastructure for our affected brethen,” said the Davao-based solon.
“Again we are asking our colleagues in the Senate to defund the NTF-ELCAC and realign the funds to our typhoon hit kababayans. Taxpayers’ money should be used in something productive and for helping others not in spreading lies and fake news,” ended Zarate.
ESPERON RESPECTS POSSIBLE BUDGET SLASH BY CONGRESS
Meanwhile, Esperon said the NTF-ELCAC will respect the decision of Congress if it will slash the budget for the Barangay Development Program amounting to P16 billion.
“I am amenable to the wisdom of Senate if they decide to cut the BDP
fund. However, I am also optimistic that Senators will adhere to the objective of the program because it will benefit more people,” said Esperon.
President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte, NTF-ELCAC chairman, approved the budget proposal for the said program.
Even all governors expressed support to the BDP as per the resolution they passed, Esperon added.
“I take this opportunity to introduce the NTF-ELCAC to a wider audience, and clarify the misconceptions and disinformation being spread on social media. I need to reiterate the security and development nexus as a paradigm of the NTF-ELCAC. While it aims to dismantle the NPA and underground organizations, a parallel effort to develop areas formerly held by the NPA is part of the NTF-ELCACs commitment to the people. The latter part is what the CPP-NP A advertently fails to recognize or is trying to block,” Esperon said.
“The NTF-ELCAC follows a two-track strategic framework. First is the political, economic, socio-cultural track that addresses the primary issues and root causes of insurgency and the development of strong institutions. Second is the peace engagement, law enforcement, and military track, which invites the rebels to return to the folds of the law, delegitimize the insurgents, and conduct sustained military operations. As a conclusion, the government offers a genuine political settlement and policing which will eventually lead to peace and security, and to the attainment of development undertakings,” he added.
Aside from the Makabayan, opposition senators said a large chunk of the proposed budget for the NTF-ELCAC should be spent for the victims of the recent destructive typhoon.
About P16 billion of the P19 billion 2021 budget for the NTF-ELCAC was allocated for the development of 800 barangays around the country.