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MANILA, Philippines – Fellow lawmakers from the Makabayan bloc and youth activists rallied behind Kabataan Representative Raoul Manuel after he was red-tagged at a Senate hearing on communist recruitment in schools led by Senator Bato dela Rosa.
In a news briefing on Friday, November 30, ACT Teachers Representative France Castro and Gabriel Representative Arlene Brosas condemned the hearing held two days before, and said it was meant to divert attention from International Criminal Court (ICC) probe into the drug war involving the Duterte administration and Dela Rosa, the architect and chief implementor of the previous government’s Oplan Tokhang.
Castro said that the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs hearing on Wednesday, November 29, was centered on “gossip.”
“They presented several former rebels and they focused their efforts to tarnish, vilify, and red-tag Rep. Raoul Manuel,” Castro said.
Brosas said that during the hours-long hearing, “not a single truth was mentioned, only lies against activists were propagated, including trumped-up cases filed by NTF-ELCAC against groups and individuals.”
The lawmaker noted that the cases had been junked due to lack of evidence.
During the November 28 hearing, two resource persons claimed that Manuel was a member of the Communist Party of the Philippines, and that he was a recruiter for the CPP.
Dela Rosa, in response, said, “I will use all my parliamentary powers to pin you down,” referring to Manuel. The senator claimed that Manuel was even “elated” about the ICC probe that covered Dela Rosa when he should be the one being investigated.
Kabataan denied the allegations against Manuel, dismissing them as “rehashed and outright lies.”
On Friday, Brosas questioned the timing of the hearing: “It is not acceptable that Bato uses the resources of the Senate just to have a committee hearing meant to divert the public’s attention from the war on drugs issue that he is involved in. Remember, he timed this while the House is hearing the resolution about cooperating with the ICC. So it is really connected.”
Manuel, Brosas, and Castro filed proposed House Resolution 1393 on October 17, urging the government to cooperate with the ICC probe into the Duterte drug war – the first of three House resolutions on the same subject.
During the commemoration of the 160th birth anniversary of revolutionary hero Andres Bonifacio, on Thursday, November 30, Anakbayan national chair Kate Almenzo echoed criticism of the Senate hearing as a “same-old, templated attack” against progressive groups to divert attention from the clamor for the government to cooperation in the ICC probe.
Almenzo told Rappler that the hearing’s allegations against Manuel are “untruthful, senseless, and non-credible.”
Kabataan’s Rolyn Marohombsar said the Dela Rosa-led hearing is part of efforts to intimidate the youth in standing for their rights.
“Nakakabahala kasi mismong senador, na dating PNP (Philippine National Police) chief, ay talagang inaatake pa mismo ‘yung mga kabataan…. Kung sino pa ‘yung mga tao na dapat sumoporta sa amin at magbigay ng platform para sa tunay na pagbabago, sila pa ‘yung nang-iipit sa amin,” Marohombsar said.
(It’s alarming because a senator, a former PNP chief, is attacking the youth himself…. The one who is supposed to support us and give a platform for true change is the one who is putting us in a bind.)
In his opening statement at the November 28 hearing, Dela Rosa had said that the probe was guided by a “commitment to furthering the well-being of our youth.” – With reports from Chris Burnet Ramos/Rappler.com
Chris Burnet Ramos is an intern for Rappler. He currently writes for the progressive sector and the studentry as a senior news writer of PUP College of Communication’s official publication, The Communicator.