The Senate employees’ union said on Friday, April 9, that it is looking into a range of possible actions against government officials who had “maliciously” red-tagged the organization, including elevating their concern before the United Nations human rights office.
Rosel Eugenio, president of the Sandigan ng mga Empleyadong Nagkakaisa sa Adhikain ng Demokratikong Organisasyon (SENADO), said this in a virtual press conference on Friday that was also attended by Senator Koko Pimentel, a former Senate president.
Responding to questions, Eugenio said SENADO officials are discussing possible courses of action against National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) Director General Alex Monteagudo and National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) spokesperson Lorraine Badoy for “maliciously labeling” their union as a communist front.
Eugenio said there are a number of “avenues” that SENADO is exploring, such as going to local courts and even the UN human rights office.
Asked what legal advice he can give to SENADO to formally contest the red-tagging, Pimentel, a lawyer, said the group can consider filing administrative complaints such as abuse of power or abuse of authority since there is no law against red-tagging.
Eugenio noted that senators, including Senate President Vicente Sotto III and his predecessors Pimentel and Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon – have all backed up SENADO as a legitimate organization working for Senate workers’ rights and benefits – contrary to the claim that it is a communist front or the “eyes and ears” of communists in the Senate.
Pimentel reiterated this during the virtual press conference. “Hindi ko nakikita kung saan nanggaling ang atake sa legitimate employees union of the Senate. ‘Part of the tentacles of the Communist Party of the Philippines?’ Mag-ingat-ingat tayo sa ganyang accusations,” he said.
(I can’t see where this attack on the legitimate employees’ union of the Senate is coming from. “Part of the tentacles of the Communist Party of the Philippines?” Let’s be careful in making such accusations.)
Pimentel noted that SENADO pushed for an end to contractualization, which President Rodrigo Duterte himself had vowed to do.
The senator also wondered aloud how the union members can be considered the “eyes and ears” of the Communist Party of the Philippines in the Senate when all documents there are made public anyway.
Eugenio said in Filipino that the “baseless” red-tagging of SENADO has become a “big nightmare” and an added burden to its 800 members during the pandemic.
SENADO member Marilou Binanitan shared that the red-tagging of the union has caused “great fear and anxiety” among the Senate employees as well as their families, who now fear for their lives whenever they leave their homes.
Eugenio said that other than safety concerns, the promotion of qualified government employees belonging to red-tagged groups is also at risk.
Spotlight on anti-red-tagging bill
Pimentel said the only positive thing he could see arising from the red-tagging of SENADO is that it put the spotlight on the proposed bill to criminalize red-tagging.
He said SENADO should participate in the Senate hearings on Senate Bill (SB) No. 2121, which seeks to define and criminalize the act of red-tagging amid killings of activists and human rights defenders.
Eugenio also said that the red-tagging of SENADO appeared to be an offshoot of its affiliation with labor rights group Confederation for Unity, Recognition, and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE), which Monteagudo had also accused of having communist ties.
“Kung ang ipinaglalaban namin at ng COURAGE, tamang sahod, kaseguruhan ng trabaho, at karapatan ng manggagawa, ito ba ay pagiging terorista (If SENADO and COURAGE are fighting for proper wages, job secuity, and workers rights, is what terrorists do)?” she asked.
Eugenio believed that SENADO is being used as a diversionary tactic amid public criticism of the government’s inadequate pandemic response, as well as China’s latest incursion in the West Philippine Sea. – Rappler.com