With billions in intelligence funds, Vice President Leni Robredo wondered why red-tagging and fake news persist in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
In an interview with GMA News’ “The Mangahas Interviews,” Robredo said that she, too, has been a victim of red-tagging and fake news several times.
One of which was when Secretary Delfin Lorenzana accused her of using the army’s C130 in the distribution of relief goods for the victims of Typhoons Rolly and Ulysses in November last year. Lorenzana, and even Presidential chief legal counsel Salvador Panelo, has since apologized for the lapse.
“Mayroon namang intelligence unit iyong ating Armed Forces. Bakit ba nagkakaroon pa ng lapses tungkol dito? Mataas naman iyong ating intelligence budget, pero, ‘di ba, several times na iyong may sasabihin, babawiin kasi hindi pala totoo (The Armed Forces has an intelligence unit, but why are there lapses like these? They have a big intelligence budget but for several times, they will say something and then take it back),” Robredo said.
The Office of the President has almost P4.5 billion in confidential and intelligence funds for 2021. Aside from that, the President also controls the intelligence funds of other agencies such as the Department of National Defense, the Philippine National Police, and the National Security Agency, among others.
The manner in which the armed forces are red-tagging and accusing critics of the government is irresponsible because they are not double-checking the information they received, Robredo said.
“Kapag ganito, nilalagay (nila) sa panganib iyong buhay ng mga tao. Parang in-open mo siya for a lot of possibilities na wala namang dahilan (In cases like this, you are putting the people’s lives in danger. You made that person a target for no reason).”
A recent example of what red-tagging meant for those it victimized was what a Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) member, lawyer Raffy Aquino experienced recently when he was accused of being a member of the New People’s Army (NPA).
Quoting Aquino, Robredo said that red-tagging feels like someone has placed a target board at your back. You are a walking open target, the vice president lamented.
She noted that the same thing happened to actress Liza Soberano, who was likewise red-tagged for speaking at a Gabriela Youth virtual event. Actress Angel Locsin and her sister were also accused of joining the NPA. The defense establishment eventually apologized for these incidents.
Robredo said the government’s counter-insurgency program must focus instead on addressing the root cause of the rebellion.
“Ito iyong mga disgruntled sa pamahalaan. Ito iyong mga palagay nila hindi napapakinggan iyong kanilang mga pangangailangan. Para sa akin, hindi militarization iyong solusyon sa insurgency (These are people disgruntled with the government. These are those who feel that their needs are not being heard. For me, militarization is not the solution to insurgency),” she stressed.
The vice president explained that even Executive Order 70, which created the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) and which President Duterte signed, acknowledged the need to deliver social services and end poverty.
“Kasi most of the time, marami iyong sumasali na dahil sa pangangailangan. So may recognition iyong Executive Order na iyon na hindi kailangang daanin sa dahas, hindi kailangang daanin sa dahas all the time iyong pag-asikaso ng ating insurgency problem (Most of the time, people join out of need. The Executive Order recognizes that violence is not needed all the time to address our insurgency problem),” she said.