Criminalizing red-tagging will empower enemies — former NPA rebel

A former high-ranking New People’s Army (NPA) officer who has since joined the government campaign to end insurgency is urging an opposition lawmaker to look into the nature of red-tagging before pushing for a law that will criminalize it.

RED-TAGGING. Sambayanan national coordinator Jeffrey Celis said a measure that will criminalize red-tagging will empower enemies of the state. He advised bill author Senator Franklin Drilon to carefully study how communist terrorist groups toy around with the law. (PNA file photo)

Sambayanan national coordinator Jeffrey “Ka Eric” Celiz said complaints against red-tagging have become diversionary tactics of the communist movement to avoid legal implications.

“It is their way of radicalizing the people from various sectors: education, church, opposition, media and the sorts. It is also their way of infiltrating these institutions for recruitment purposes,” Celiz said in an online interview on Sunday.

Sambayanan (Sentrong Alyansa ng mga Mamamayan para sa Bayan) is composed of former Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-NPA members who have returned to the fold of the law and expressed support to foil and end insurgency.

On March 25, Drilon filed Senate Bill No. 2121 to define and penalize red-tagging.

He said it would “fix the legal gaps, address impunity [and] institutionalize a system of accountability”.

The bill was filed on the same day the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security, Peace, Unification, and Reconciliation unanimously passed a resolution condemning the spate of killings and other acts of violence directed at judges, prosecutors and lawyers, many of whom were shot dead by unidentified assailants.

“If there is one act that Drilon can do that will benefit the Filipinos, it is to criminalize the recruitment of minors into leftist groups and the CPP-NPA that are being done by activists,” Celiz said.

The former rebel previously testified in the Senate when ranking officers of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) were summoned on alleged incidents of red-tagging.

Celis said he will testify anew if only to make Drilon understand how pulling off the red-tagging card is a mere scheme of insurgents.

“It is not red-tagging. The government is just correctly identifying them. The government is informing the community regarding the deception of the CPP and its armed wing, the NPA,” he added.

Senator Panfilo Lacson likewise said in a television interview last year that criminalizing red-tagging is a tall order.

“I took the inputs of at least two legal luminaries. According to them, red-tagging may be criminalized because freedom of speech is not absolute after all. On the other side, the security sector said that if we criminalize red-tagging, we might as well criminalize fascist-tagging or dictator-tagging. So when will this end?” he said.

President Rodrigo Duterte signed Executive Order No. 70 in December 2018, creating the NTF-ELCAC that employs a whole-of-nation approach to end communism and institute peace-building initiatives.

The European Union, through Council Decision 2011/70/CFSP dated January 11, 2011, designated the CPP-NPA as a terrorist organization.

The CPP-NPA is also listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines. (Christine Cudis, PNA)

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