The “red-tagging” of groups and personalities by military officials only worsened confusion and fear on the Anti-Terrorism Act, Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri said on Friday.
“Sa tingin ko…it added confusion to the Anti-Terror Law. Of course, it also added to the witch-hunt scare that they are saying,” Zubiri said in an interview with CNN Philippines.
“It’s unnecessary, if you ask me. It’s unnecessary getting these celebrities in the limelight for their advocacies,” he added.
The Senate leader was asked about the statements of Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr., who recently drew flak for accusing women’s rights party Gabriela as a front of the Communist Party of the Philippines. He also warned actresses Angel Locsin, Liza Soberano and beauty queen Catriona Gray about their engagement with the group, mentioning an activist who was killed in an armed encounter with government forces.
Zubiri admitted he was “a big fan” of the three celebrities, lauding them for their philanthropic work and advocacies.
He then advised military officials to be “very, very careful” about their pronouncements and speak only basing it on hard facts and evidence.
“Of course the military will say there is basis to do what they are doing, but what is important is the hard facts, the hard evidence, if they’re to accuse a particular group, make sure that they have evidence before they actually say that these people are enemies of the state,” he said.
“We live in a democracy, we believe in freedom of speech, the freedom of the media to be able to air news items and reports. Whatever controversial statement that comes out from people of authority, talagang aatakihin ‘yan at puputok ‘yan (it will be criticized), not only on the media but also social media,” he added.
Zubiri said the military should “concentrate on the enemies of the state and on winning the hearts and minds of our people”, raising that such statements could also affect the petitions filed against the Anti-Terrorism Law.
The Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 has been challenged in at least 37 petitions before the Supreme Court. Various groups raised alarm that its provisions would be abused to violate free speech and the right to due process.
Meanwhile, the Senate committee on national defense, chaired by the Senator Panfilo Lacson, is scheduled to hold an oversight hearing on November 3 to discuss the supposed red-tagging activities of military officials.
Parlade, spokesman of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) and AFP Southern Luzon Command chief, is expected to attend the Senate inquiry.