Senate President Vicente Sotto III said Sunday that any proposed law that seeks to criminalize red-tagging or the branding of government critics and activists as communists or enemies of the State will not materialize.
Sotto said he believes President Duterte himself will veto such bill even if Congress is able to pass it.
“Malabo ‘yan. Mahirap i-define (ang red-tagging kahit) sabihin pa class legislation (That’s impossible. It’s hard to define red-tagging even if you consider class legislation),” Sotto said in an interview on GMANewsTV.
“Pangalawa, pumasa man iyan sa amin, ang opinion ko, 100 percent ibi-veto ni Presidente iyan (Secondly, even if that hurdles in our chamber, my opinion is that the President will veto that measure 100 percent),” Sotto added.
The Senate leader argued that criminalizing red-tagging is tantamount to criminalizing name-calling.
If a bill seeking to criminalize red-tagging would be filed, Sotto said he would also propose a law seeking to criminalize name-calling.
“Bakit mo iki-criminalize ‘yung katagang red-tagging, ide-define mo pa? Kapag sinabi mo ‘yun, papayag ako pero gawin mo na ring (criminal act ang) fascist-tagging tsaka name-calling (Why will you criminalize red-tagging and define it? If you do that, I will agree to it being a criminal act, provided that you also consider fascist-tagging and name-calling as a crime),” Sotto said.
“Basta’t makakasama sa pagkatao mo, sa reputasyon mo, name-calling (ang tawag) dun. Eh di i-criminalize na lang natin ang name-calling (If it damages your reputation, that’s considered name-calling. If that is the case, then let’s criminalize name-calling activities too),” he said.
Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, chairman of the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security, had earlier floated the idea that red-tagging can be considered a criminal act.
Lacson had wrapped up his committee’s investigation into the military’s allegations that progressive groups, including Makabayan, are linked to or are fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing the New Peoples’ Army (NPA).
But the inquiry turned into a series of accusations and counter-accusations between the Makabayan bloc, its allied organizations, and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict or NTF-ELCAC.
In pushing for such bill, Lacson said the 1987 Constitution would be the ultimate guide on whether there is a basis to criminalize red-tagging of perceived militant individuals and groups.
“We will study and consider the matter, but the bottom line is that such a move will not violate our Constitution,” Lacson said.