Duterte sides with Lorenzana on red-tagging: 'Keep quiet' if you have no evidence

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President Rodrigo Duterte with Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 26) — President Rodrigo Duterte wants military and police officials to stop tagging certain individuals as communists or terrorists without proper evidence.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte is taking Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana's censure against Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade, Jr., the spokesman of National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), after warning actresses Liza Soberano and Angel Locsin, and Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray about their supposed involvement with a women's rights group with alleged communist ties.

READ: Angel Locsin tells military official: Difference in opinion does not give you the right to 'red tag,' endanger lives

"The President has spoken through Secretary Delfin Lorenzana when he warned both police and military authorities to be very careful in red-tagging," Roque said on Monday, days after the issue hogged the national spotlight.

"Ang suggestion nga ni Sec. Lorenzana is no need to publicize kung sino ang mga suspected communists [Sec. Lorenzana even suggested not to publicize the names of suspected communists] –– just do their job without publicity," Roque said.

Lorenzana told reporters on Friday that he is calling for an NTF-ELCAC meeting to discuss its next steps after Parlade's statement made the headlines.

READ: Sison himself declared Gabriela an NPA front, but Parlade still warned against red-tagging without proof – Lorenzana

Parlade tagged Locsin's non-showbiz sister Ella Colmenares as a member of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People's Army. But the defense chief said the military official cannot just make accusations without evidence to back his claims.

"Manahimik na lang. Kung meron kayong pinaghihinalaan [Just keep quiet. If you have suspicions], proceed with your surveillance," Roque told military and police operatives. "If there's evidence, then file the appropriate criminal complaint."

President Rodrigo Duterte created the anti-communist task force in 2018 to provide "whole-of-nation" approach in curbing armed rebel groups and to create a National Peace Framework.

However, the NTF-ELCAC has been accused of tagging critics of the Duterte administration as communists, which has become a more serious issue now that the Anti-Terrorism Law is in full effect.

The highly contested law gives the executive Anti-Terrorism Council the authority to designate individuals and groups as terrorists, allowing the Anti-Money Laundering Council to freeze their assets. Their names will also be published in a newspaper and online.

A person must then seek for delisting to avoid sanctions, as terrorists are deemed enemies of the state.