Karapatan slams Tolentino’s ‘witch-hunt proposal,’ lauds Legarda’s peace call

A senator’s proposal to require government personnel to disclose relatives allegedly connected with criminal or so-called terrorist groups will only result in crackdowns on public officials, employees and their kin, a human right group said.

Reacting to Senator Francis Tolentino’s privilege speech on Tuesday, rights group Karapatan said that the legislator’s proposal will open the floodgates for possible violations on the right to due process, freedom of thought or opinion, privacy and threats to life and security and liberty of government workers and their families.

“What Sen. Tolentino is suggesting is a crackdown on officials and employees in the public sector and their relatives, based on the much-questioned, vague and arbitrary definition of terrorism under our laws,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said.

In his speech, Tolentino proposed amendments to the filing of Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net worth (SALN) by public officials and employees to include relatives who may be involved in criminal and underground activities.

“I think it is right that when one enters the government to perhaps declare that you have a relative who is a member of a terrorist organization or criminal syndicate up to the fourth degree of consanguinity,” Tolentino said.

The senator’s proposal came after higher education commissioner Prospero de Vera III’s admission that an elder sister is a member of an underground revolutionary organization.

Poet Adora Faye de Vera was arrested in Quezon City last August 24. Her supporters however have only described her as a martial law survivor who suffered torture and rape in the hands of government soldiers.

Karapatan said Tolentino’s proposal is way off mark while the Senate was deliberating on government efficiency in the midst of an economic crisis.

The group said “the senator’s proposal of a witch-hunt and pointless red-tagging in the public sector workforce is a huge disservice to the public.”

“Isn’t it more important to check government officials and agencies that engage in influence peddling, graft and corruption for self-serving interests rather than make proposals on irrelevant issues?” Palabay asked.

Group lauds Legarda

Meanwhile, Karapatan lauded Senate Pro Tempore Loren Legarda’s reply to Tolentino, pointing out that having political beliefs different from the status quo does not make one a subversive or a terrorist.

“Apart from her assertion of the fact that the anti-subversion law has been repealed, what can be gleaned from Sen. Legarda’s comments is the irony in a so-called democratic state, where the prevalent practice of government officials and State security forces remains to be that of intolerance for progressive beliefs, persecution and dangerous red-tagging,” Palabay said.

Karapatan said Legarda is correct in calling for a review of the Anti-Terrorism Law and the resumption of peace talks between the Manila government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

“[T]he common goal of leaders of our country, whether we are elected in the Senate, or even working with a grassroots organization deemed subversive or Left by the government, but not really proven, can work together towards more equity, peace and authentic real reforms in the countryside,” Legarda said during Tuesday’s hearing.

Legarda added said she would like the Anti-Terror Law to be reviewed, pointing out that she voted against it at the House of Representatives. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

KAPATID: ‘Red-tagging CHED chair may take custody of elder sister Adora’

Political prisoner support group appeals for martial law survivor’s humanitarian release

Political prisoner support group Kapatid appealed for humanitarian release and immediate return to Manila of martial law survivor Adora Faye de Vera, suggesting that her brother, Cabinet member Prospero de Vera III, may act as her guarantor.

Kapatid spokesperson Fides Lim said the government may put Adora could be put under the legal custody of younger sibling Prospero, Commission on Higher Education chairperson, as he is appropriate for the role.

“The very reasons that Prof. de Vera announced to distance himself from his sister could ironically provide the same rationale why he fits the bill as a guarantor…Who better [to act as] guarantor than a brother who has red-tagged his sister to prove in his own words that he neither ‘shares her views nor supports her actions’ and ‘fully supports the government in its efforts to end the communist insurgency’?” Lim said.

In a statement following his sister’s arrest last Wednesday, August 24, Prospero said he has not spoken to his sister for more than 25 years “since she decided to rejoin the underground movement.”

Prospero added that while he hopes and prays for Adora’s safety and good health in detention as she faces the cases filed against her, he fully supports the administration of Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in its efforts to end the communist insurgency.

‘Very sick’

Adora’s son also Ron’s called for his mother’s release and return to Manila to continue with her medical treatment.

“My mother is 66 now and very sick that’s why she was in Manila to seek medical care. We appeal to government authorities to immediately bring her back to Manila to ensure her safety while she undergoes medical treatment for chronic asthma and complications,” Ron, former program coordinator of Amnesty International Philippines, said.

Ron said their family is very worried for Adora’s safety following “tokhang-style” killings of prominent activists, mostly elderly and very ill, who were tagged by military-police forces as leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines and New People’s Army.

Among them are National Democratic Front of the Philippines peace consultants  Antonio Cabanatan, 74, and his wife Florenda Yap, 65, who were abducted, tortured, and murdered by police-military units also in Iloilo on December 26, 2020.

“Iloilo is not a safe place for Mama and it’s very far away from us. She has been through so much suffering. We appeal to government authorities to give her a chance to live a peaceful life and receive the proper medical care she needs. Please release her on humanitarian grounds and allow us to take care of her,” said Ron, whose father and Adora’s first husband, Manuel “Noni” Manaog, a community organizer, was abducted in 1990 and remains missing.

Adora was twice arrested during the Ferdinand Marcos Sr. dictatorship who revealed torture and rape in the hands of her captors.

She was among thousands of petitioners who successfully prosecuted the late dictator in a Hawaii court for human rights violations during martial law.

Kapatid’s Lim said Adora’s imprisonment reopens festering wounds that presents a tremendous challenge to new President Marcos Jr. “to show he is not incapable of righting the wrongs of the past and that his mantra of unity during the elections is not a hollow message to sidestep his family’s brutal and corrupt history.” # (Raymund B. Villanueva)