June 24, 2024

Mindful of putting individuals in danger based on a recent Supreme Court ruling on red-tagging, the city council halted a presentation of a resource person regarding the alleged operation of communist-terrorist groups in the city during its session last week.

The council, through Councilor Fred Bagbagen, invi-ted Col. Virgilio Noora of the 5th Infantry Division and commander of the Joint Task Group Baguio to its regular session on May 27 to shed light on its mission to conduct “counter white operations” to put a stop to the CPP-NPA-NDF’s alleged recruitment and fund generation in the city, in aid of legislation.

Noora’s group is part of the National Task Group to End Local Communist Armed Conflict or NTF-Elcac organized by the government for its whole of nation approach to respond and aid awareness on communist armed conflicts in the country.

Vice Mayor Faustino Olowan initially granted Noora’s request to present a situationer on their activities through a PowerPoint presentation on the condition it will not infringe on the constitutional rights of individuals.

Before the presentation, Councilor Jose Molintas asked for it to be done in an executive-legislative meeting, saying he has seen similar presentations which he said normally red-tags individuals.

The councilor warned about red-tagging, which the SC, in a decision issued last month granting the petition of activist and former party-list group representative Seigfried Deduro for Writ of Amparo, ruled as one that constitutes threats to a person’s right to life, liberty, or security along with vilification, labelling, and guilt by association.

Noora started by presenting the strategic statement and objectives of CTGs and the areas where one of its arms operates described as “white areas”.

In his presentation, Noora mentioned a name of a particular party-list group to explain how CTGs “join the government to destroy government”, among others, to achieve their goal to “topple down the present democratic form of government to replace it with a communist form of government”.

Molintas and the other councilors objected, saying party-lists areart of the Constitution and for the resource person to attack it during the session by mentioning its names is already a form of red-tagging.

“What they are doing is actually propaganda against a particular party-list. Who are they to brand the party-list as a member of the communist groups? And what is wrong about communism? They should not be allowed to red-tag here including the party-list,” Molintas said. 

Other councilors agreed, saying Noora should have known that party-lists are accredited groups.

Olowan acknow-ledged the member’s opposition to the presentation.

After further efforts to allow the council to ask questions to Noora, Olo-wan decided to defer the presentation and questioning, and scheduled a closed-door interaction via an executive-legislative meeting later this month. 

Bagbagen said the resource person was invited because he was alarmed by  reports on counter-white area operations and wanted to be enlightened about it.

“The focus of this invitation is in relation to the city because it seems there is a rampant recruitment being done which I am not aware of,” he said.

In agreeing to stop the presentation, Noora said they do not intend to be adversarial but came to the council to inform about the armed movement, with the hope the body would be of help in line with the whole of nation approach to fight local armed conflict.

Molintas welcomed the gesture, saying doing the presentation through a consultation and dialogue in an executive-legislative meeting would be the better way and prevent an adversarial manner of interaction.

Netizens who were listening to the council session livestreamed on the Sangguniang Panlungsod official social media account said the presentation should be allowed to proceed and the council should not prevent the resource person from informing the public about CTG activities.  – Hanna C. Lacsamana