Malacañang on Thursday shrugged off the call made by Southeast Asian parliamentarians on the Duterte administration to stop red-tagging Makabayan bloc lawmakers in the Philippines.
“Hindi po sila (They are not) representative of the views of the overwhelming majority of parliamentarians. And because they’re not, that’s the view of a very few Asean parliamentarians and I don’t think it deserves any attention,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque in a Palace briefing.
Charles Santiago, a Malaysian Member of Parliament (MP) and chair of the Asean Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) earlier described the red-tagging of Makabayan lawmakers as an attempt to silence political opposition and undermine democracy, and directly put people’s lives at risk, particularly, those who oppose the government’s agenda.
Roque said the view was only expressed by a “very small” number of Asean parliamentarians.
“Very, very small numbers of Asean parliamentarians said that, and because of this, that’s part of their freedom of expression which probably they don’t even have in their own respective states. We leave it at that. Let that be their views,” he added.
The APHR chief expressed his view amid Duterte and other government officials’ continued linking of the House of Representatives’ Makabayan bloc with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).
In a taped speech last Nov. 30, Duterte denied red-tagging Makabayan lawmakers, insisting that he was “identifying” them as legal fronts.
Duterte said the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is “very correct” for identifying groups like Makabayan, Bayan, and Gabriela as “legal fronts” of the CPP-NPA-NDF who are part of a “grand conspiracy” to overthrow government.
“Itong mga legal fronts ng komunista, lahat ‘yan (These 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 you have organized headed by NDF tapos yung (then) New People’s Army and Communist Party of the Philippines,” Duterte said.
Santiago warned that red-tagging has “extremely violent consequences” and noted that the fact that Duterte is leading the practice is “inexcusable.”
“We urgently call on President Duterte and the Philippine government to stop labeling directly-elected representatives as terrorists, and to effectively fulfill their mandates and freely express their opinions,” he said.
The APHR is a collective of lawmakers from Southeast Asia working to improve human rights responses and justice in the region.
APHR was founded in June 2013 to protect the human rights of the people of Asean. Specifically, it represents a regional response and approach to human rights concerns, utilizing the specific characteristics and abilities of parliamentarians and “influence persons” to advocate for the protection of people’s human rights throughout Southeast Asia.
The CPP-NPA-NDF is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.
Source: Philippines News agency