Seeking electoral disqualification of left-leaning groups an option — Esperon

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 5)— Government officials and other individuals have the option to seek the disqualification of political groups—supposedly connected to communist organizations — for the next elections, the country’s top security official said Thursday.

“That is an option. It may not be us, it might be the citizenry themselves, or groups that think they should not become part of this party-list system,” National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Jr. told CNN Philippines’ The Source when asked if they are planning to ask the Commission on Elections to bar such groups from running. He did not provide further details on the matter.

Esperon clarified that left-leaning political groups are not engaging in illegal acts in Congress, but claimed that some have been supporting “underground” organizations.

“They are not doing anything illegal in Congress. They are not. But there are underground organizations that they— whether wittingly or unwittingly— support, that are connected with Communist Party of the Philippines, and the New People’s Army, and the underground National Democratic Front,” Esperon said.

“There’s a very thin line between a legal organization with good advocacies and that of the organization which is providing manpower and even logistics and even support, other kinds of support to the NPA,” he added.

Under Comelec rules, grounds for election disqualification include the following: if a candidate is found to have given money or bribed voters; committed acts of terrorism to enhance candidacy; and overspent in election campaign, among others.

In January, Comelec dismissed a case that sought to disqualify the registration of the left-leaning Makabayan bloc and former senatorial candidate Neri Colmenares from the 2019 polls due to insufficient evidence.

The poll body said the petition, which also claimed of various political groups’ alleged ties to communists, had "no leg to stand on."

Esperon wants face-to-face with Makabayan

Meanwhile, Esperon also challenged the Makabayan bloc to attend the next Senate probe on red-tagging, saying he would want to come face-to-face with the lawmakers to hear their defense on various allegations.

The official also questioned the solons' absence in the previous hearing, saying they may not be able to defend themselves or tell the truth.

“I think they could not defend themselves in the open. You know, in the Senate, we take our oath to tell the truth and nothing but the truth. Siguro baka hindi nila kayang gawin ‘yun (maybe they can’t do that),” Esperon said.

“But if they could attend the next hearing, we would appreciate it, we would like to come face-to-face with them,” he added.

Makabayan lawmakers had skipped Tuesday's hearing as they were on separate relief missions following the onslaught of typhoon Rolly, according to their legal counsel.

Lawmakers who have been accused of having links with the CPP earlier denied the allegations— calling them “lies and fake news” without any evidence.

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