The military’s relentless red-tagging of opposition lawmakers and progressive celebrities gives petitioners against the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 a strong Exhibit A in asking the Supreme Court to issue a temporary restraining order on the implementation of the questioned law.
Independent opposition Rep. Edcel Lagman made this assertion even as House Deputy Minority leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate debunked National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon's statement that there are underground organizations inside the Makabayan bloc and other progressive groups.
Lagman pointed out that the “enactment and effectivity of the ATA have emboldented” military officials to accuse the six members of the Makabayan bloc as being “terrorists” for being card-bearing members of the Communist Party of the Philippines.
The red-tagging of opposition and movie personalities was launched recently by Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade, spokesman of the Naitonal Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).
“Granting that the six Makabayan representatives are affiliated with CPP, Parlade forgets that membership in the CPP is legal after the Anti-Subversion Law was repealed in 1992 or 28 years ago,” noted Lagman.
The veteran solon said Parlade has even justified the surveillance of targeted legislators under the new anti-terrorism law.
These actions by the military will arm the 37 sets of petitioners against the ATA with strong arguments to support their claim that aside from being unconstitutional, the questionable law is open to abuse by those tasked to enforce it.
“The persecution and execution of human rights advocates and defenders will intensify if the implementation of the constitutionally infirm law is not restrained pending final adjudication of the 37 petitions," he said.
Among the latest victims of extrajudicial killings are human rights activists Zara Alvarez and Randall Echanis,’ stressed Lagman.
Meanwhile, Zarate chided Esperon for failing to present evidence to support his accusations against the Makabayan bloc, which is composed of six congressmen representing progressive partylist organizations.
"Like his paranoid protege, General Parlade, Esperon is just spouting out lies and fake news but does not present evidence that would stand up in court. Obviously, they don't want to settle the issue with solid evidence in court that is why they would rather further malign us in public," Zarate explained.
The opposition leader stressed: "Even their supposed perjured witnesses' statements would be tested in court that is why they are only doing their rounds in media outlets peddling their fake news.”
"As it is, the generals sitting at the leadership of the NTF-ELCAC like Esperon are seething with rage because the generals' pork in the NTF-ELCAC was exposed to the public and they are hitting back at our bloc for doing so," Zarate said.