National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. maintained Wednesday that Makabayan representatives cannot wash their hands off on the alleged recruitment of members of the New People’s Army (NPA) from their groups.
In a statement reiterating his testimonies during the Senate Committee on National Defense inquiry on the supposed red-tagging operations of government security officials, Esperon insisted that members of the House of Representatives’ Makabayan bloc were acting as legal fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the NPA.
“I shared the disbelief in Sen. Lacson’s words as he said he could not reconcile the fact that the Makabayan bloc, as elected government officials and paid for by taxpayers, could not denounce the armed rebellion and killings done by the NPA,” said Esperon, vice chairman of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).
“We in the security sector consider those who have joined the NPA as an enemy of the state,” he added.
During the Senate hearing Tuesday, former Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño said they do not consider their former-members-turned-NPA-members as enemies since they still recognize their social advocacies which they believe should be discussed by the government.
“When they defected, we immediately considered them as enemies. Do you share the same sentiment regarding your former members?” Lacson asked, recalling the defection of former military officers to the NPA.
“Definitely we do not consider them as enemies,” Casiño responded.
Lacson interjected: “Do not consider them as enemies? Nakapatay sila ng taong gobyerno, ng mga mayors?”
“They are engaged in rebellion, Mr. Chair. They are committing an illegal act. But we do not judge them to be enemies, ang tingin namin ginawa nila ‘yon dahil hindi sila nasasapatan (We think that they did that because they found legal efforts insufficient),” the former congressman said.
“I’m sorry to say this but I cannot reconcile,” Lacson commented.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said that condemning their former members would equate to “denying the existence of roots of the armed conflict” and would “shut the doors for political settlement.”
Esperon said “the Makabayan bloc cannot deny their complicity in the armed struggle.”
“I reiterate my response: You cannot deny responsibility for the recruitment of our youth by the NPA. It is your front organizations that radicalize these young minds in their early years,” he added.
“For former Rep. Casiño to say that it was a ‘personal decision’ of the recruits to join the NPA is a denial of responsibility over the lives of their members. They are responsible for the radicalization of activists into joining the armed struggle against the Republic.”
He also told the lawmakers: “May I likewise remind the Makabayan bloc that all public officials, whether elected or appointed, are bound by the oath they take upon assumption of office to uphold and defend the Constitution; to bear true faith and allegiance to it; obey the laws, orders, and decrees promulgated by the duly constituted authorities of the Republic of the Philippines.”
“Representatives of the Makabayan bloc cannot feign ignorance to the oath that they have sworn to in their assumption into office.”
Casiño, Zarate, Kabataan partylist Rep. Sarah Elago, former Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, and other progressive groups denied their links to the CPP, NPA, and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.