Embattled Makabayan turns to House leadership for protection

Published December 1, 2020, 3:23 PM

by Ellson Quismorio

Bayan Muna Party-List Rep. Carlos Zarate said he expects the House leadership to “defend the institution.” amid the most aggressive accusation yet that the militant Makabayan bloc is affiliated with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate (Bayan Muna Party list Facebook page / MANILA BULLETIN)
Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate (Bayan Muna Party list Facebook page / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

“Kami ay nagpapasalamat sa ipinaabot na suporta sa amin ng aming mga kasamahan (We thank our colleagues for the support they have been giving us), individually and collectively, in these [sic] past few days,” Zarate said in a virtual press conference Tuesday, Dec. 1.

Among those who have expressed support for them, according to Zarate, were Speaker Lord Allan Velasco and Minority Leader Joseph Stephen Paduano.

“Nagpalabas na rin ng statement ang aming bagong Minority Leader, si Rep. Paduano at maging si Speaker Velasco. Of course, pinapasalamat namin ito at inaasahan namin na depensahan nila.”

(Our new Minority Leader, Rep. Paduano and Speaker Velasco have released statements. Of course, we thank them for these and we expect them to act as our defenders.)

“This is not only an issue of the Makabayan bloc. Depensahan din nila ang institusyon, ang independence ng institusyon ng House of Representatives (They should also defend the institution, the independence of the institution of the House of Representatives),” stressed the Davao-based congressman.

Velasco is a member of ruling party Partido Demokratiko Pilipino–Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), which President Duterte chairs. The six-member Makabayan is part of the Minority bloc.

On Nov. 30, no less than the President said that the Makabayan members are part of the “grand conspiracy” of the CPP-National Democratic Front-New People’s Army (CPP-NDF-NPA), which are enemies of the state and are considered terrorists.

Duterte made this statement after Bayan Muna Rep. Eufemia Cullamat’s youngest daughter Jevilyn, an alleged NPA medic, was slain by government forces during an encounter over the weekend in Surigao del Sur. He said this gives credence to the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) allegation that Makabayan has links to Red rebels.

But Zarate, a deputy minority leader in the House, continued to deny these allegations. He described Duterte’s words as “wholesale red-tagging without evidence” and, at the same time, expressed his worries over its “great implications” on him and his fellow militant solons.

Zarate said many of their allies outside of Congress have been killed after being tagged as communists or terrorists.

Asked if Makabayan would seek additional security from the House leadership due to safety concerns, the Davao-based solon said they would bring this up in a future meeting.

“In the coming days we will consult with them, makikipag-usap kami. Ayoko naman ding pangunahan ang puwedeng gawin ng liderato at ayaw din naming magdikta,” he said.

(We will talk to them. I don’t want to preempt their response and we don’t want to dictate anything.)

“Pero nagpapasalamat kami dahil nga nitong mga nakaraan ay tumindig hindi lang para sa depensa ng malayang talakayan dito sa House kundi para madepensahan din yung institusyon sa mga ganitong walang basehang mga atake,” Zarate added.

(But we are thankful since they have been making a stand, not only to defend free discussion here in the House, but also to defend the institution against these baseless attacks.)