GABRIELA comments on Senate hearing summoning Makabayan bloc in the wake of super typhoon Rolly

Filipinos urgently need service not a sham circus! Senator Ping Lacson’s hearing is a sham circus enabling victimizers Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) at a time when the Filipino people are in dire need of relief and decisive resolution to a crisis situation that has left millions hungry, unemployed and economically insecure.

How repulsive that the government continuously fumbles when the coronavirus continues to threaten the lives of our people, when violence and abuse against women are in a historic high, and when Filipinos demand daily their rights and seek accountability from a government that is more and more exposed for its inaction, corruption and fascism.

How repulsive that the government can attempt to sweep everything under the rug and devote its time instead to malign those who act to advance the people’s interests and truly, devotedly, serve the people.

Over the past weeks, the NTF-ELCAC, a government body created and chaired by President Duterte himself, has been on a rampage to malign and peddle atrocious lies against Filipina celebrities Angel Locsin, Liza Soberano, Catriona Gray, organizations GABRIELA, GABRIELA-Youth, and sole women’s partylist representative to the Philippine Congress Gabriela Women’s Party, and the rest of the progressive Makabayan bloc in the Lower House.

Despite the multitude of blunder and vile statements made by Lt. Gen. Parlade, NTF-ELCAC’s rabid barking dog par excellence, earning the ire of many even from within government itself, Senator Lacson comes to his rescue and calls for a hearing where he wishes to pit Parlade with the Makabayan bloc whom Sen. Lacson solely invited to the Halls of Senate.

The Senate hearing is highly suspect. Sen. Lacson seems to only provide Lt. Gen. Parlade and the NTF-ELCAC a platform to further peddle their lies and victimize those they have arbitrarily proclaimed as terrorists.

Sen. Lacson is the prime sponsor of the Anti-Terrorism Law, which is being criticized for curtailing basic civil rights and freedoms, thereby prompting more than 30 petitions filed in the Supreme Court questioning its constitutionality.

Sen. Lacson is the same senator who has defended a proposed P16-billion budget for the NTF-ELCAC, albeit padded with pork barrel-like funds under the discretion of the President.

We are wary of the Senate hearing’s true intentions. How could it truly be a venue to explore legal safeguards against red-tagging and other rights violations when Parlade’s latest victims of his red-tagging—Angel, Liza, and Catriona—are not even given importance as to be invited?

Angel, Catriona, and Liza are not the distractions, as Sen. Lacson in one fell swoop warned. The distraction is the hearing itself.

The hearing is timed in the wake of a super typhoon that left a trail of destruction in the country, with an estimated P1.1-billion agricultural damage. Millions of Filipinos are displaced and severely affected, hundreds of houses buried in mud and rubble.

While the typhoon death toll is still to be determined, hundreds are believed to be buried alive in the Bicol region.

All these complicated by the coronavirus pandemic that government has failed to decisively address and which now has led to almost 400,000 confirmed cases in the country.

While Filipinos need help and several civic and non-government organizations are working double-time to mobilize support for those in need, government officials are busy terrorizing individuals like Angel Locsin and organizations like Gabriela who have time and again provided services to those in need.

While the nation asks #NasaanAngPangulo (Where is the President) as typhoon Rolly batters the country, here we have his spokespersons and allies, specifically Lt. Gen. Parlade, commander of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Southern Luzon – the region badly hit by supertyphoon Rolly – are busy red-tagging and peddling lies after lies.

We reiterate: to work for the interests of the people, to organize and empower the marginalized so they could defend their rights, to be a social activist, are not acts of terrorism.

We, unfortunately, cannot speak the same for Lt. Gen. Parlade and the President’s NTF-ELCAC.