In a televised briefing, President Rodrigo Duterte accused members of the Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives of belonging to so-called legal front of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and serving as “co-conspirators” in efforts to overthrow the government.
“We are not tagging you. We are identifying you as communists. The liability of a mere soldier is the liability of the entire organization. All these legal fronts, they are all communists – Makabayan, Bayan, they are all legal fronts, Gabriela,” said Duterte.
The president previously enjoyed the support of leftist groups when he was still a mayor of Davao City. He even appointed four left-leaning individuals to his Cabinet during the first year of his administration.
Duterte’s statement came after Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Eufemia Campos Cullamat’s 22-year-old daughter Jevilyn was killed during an encounter between the military and the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the CPP, in Marihatag town in Surigao del Sur on Saturday (November 28).
Authorities claimed that Jevilyn served as an NPA medic but did not disclose the details of the clash and how she ended up dead. Photos also emerged online showing Jevilyn’s lifeless body placed alongside seized firearms and communist flags.
With this, the Makabayan bloc slammed the military, saying: “The military blatantly violated international humanitarian law by desecrating the remains of Jevilyn, circulating photos of her obviously artificially posed body as though she were still carrying a rifle, and with troops displaying her corpse alongside captured paraphernalia.”
“The soldiers did not only disrespect her remains but even used it like a trophy for propaganda purposes,” the lawmakers added, stressing that the soldiers violated the 1998 Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Law which bans the “desecration of the remains of those who have died in the course of the armed conflict.”
In an ambush interview, Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said: “Actually, dahil sa nangyari ngayon, anak pa ng congresswoman na Makabayan ‘yung namatay… ‘yung red-tagging namin ay may basis ano. May basis na sila ay sumusuporta, ‘yung Makabayan, sinusuportahan nila itong CPP-NPA at saka ‘yung tinatawag na armed struggle ng NPA.”
Last week, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate and Kabataan Party-list Rep. Sarah Elago faced their colleagues in the Senate and reiterated their call that those engaged in red-tagging should be held accountable.
Under the Duterte administration, the red-tagging of Makabayan lawmakers and other activists became rampant, with police and military forces sharing countless social media posts that red-tagged different leftist groups and lawmakers who are airing dissent.