‘Free speech’: DILG, some LGUs issue clashing views on anti-communist tarps

October 26, 2020 - 7:04 PM
In this October 2020 file photo, a tarpaulin declaring communist rebels "persona non grata" was spotted in Manila. (Manila PIO/Twitter)

The Department of Interior and Local Government defended its anti-communist tarpaulins across the country anew after some local government units denounced its move.

Last week, Manila Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso ordered the removal of a tarpaulin declaring members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Font as “persona non grata.” It was seen hung on the railings of a footbridge near the US Embassy along Roxas Boulevard.

In the message printed on the tarpaulin, residents were encouraged to call the Philippine National Police for any information about the rebel group members.

In a statement on Monday, October 26, DILG Secretary Eduardo Año described the gesture of putting up these publication materials as forms of “free speech” protected under the Constitution.

“The expressions of sentiment against CPP/NPA/NDF atrocities are free speech and are legally protected under the Constitution,” Año said.

“Remember, these are the terrorists’ groups driven by an archaic ideology who have been killing our police and soldiers and extorting from innocent civilians for the past 50 years. It is just right that people denounce them for their crimes against the people,” he added.

Año then encouraged other local officials and organizations who were “fed up” by the violence that the communist rebels supposedly committed to put up their own tarpaulins and posters against them as well.

“We encourage all LGUs and other organizations fed up with the lies, deceitfulness, and atrocities of the CPP/NPA/NDF to place their own tarpaulins and billboards to send a strong message that their terrorism and criminal acts are not tolerated by the people,” he said.

This initiative received mixed reactions online. Positive comments about it agreed with the NTF-ELCAC’s view on sending a stronger message against counter-insurgency in localities.

Critics, on the other hand, questioned the use of the tarpaulin.

A Twitter user described the move to put up anti-communist tarps as a “waste” of public funds which could have been better allocated to the underprivileged.

“Ano magagawa ng tarpaulin declaring the CPP-NPA-NDF as terrorists?? Pag nakita ba yun ng NPA ay aalis nalang sila??What a waste of public funds. Ipinambili nalang sana ng pagkain para sa mahirap. Want to stop NPA recruitment? Address the root causes of poverty,” he said.

Cavite also against ‘red-tagging’

Cavite Gov. Jonvic Remulla followed suit and also issued an advisory on social media against putting up the same materials within the province.

“Let me assure you that if you or any of your men put up similar posters or tarpaulins in the Province of Cavite, they will NOT last a day! I will personally lead the effort to tear your propaganda posters down. Brand me a communist if you will but it is my sworn duty to defend Cavite’s record in holding the insurgency at bay,” Remulla said Monday.

As he asserted that he’s not a communist sympathizer, the governor expressed strong opposition against “red-tagging” and other similar threats.

“Ultimately, the fight against the appeal of joining the insurgency starts with jobs, justice, and the commitment of government to uphold their obligations to the people,” Remulla said.

“Slogans, red-tagging and threats will never prosper nor win. Rather, it is good governance as well as the sincerity and will to serve that shall triumph and prevail,” he added.

Moreno: Spread love, not hate

Moreno last week said cooperation to contain COVID-19 is his reason for removing the controversial tarpaulins.

“Spread love, not hate, in the midst of this pandemic. Filipino kapwa Filipino magkaisa muna,” he said.

Last week, Lieutenant General Antonio Parlade of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict questioned Moreno’s decision. He asked if the local chief executive is “welcoming” the terrorists in the city.

Parlade noted that other local government units have already declared communist rebels as persona non grata in their jurisdictions.

“Why would even Manila order the removal of this tarps? Is Mayor Isko welcoming this terrorist? Let’s clarify from Yorme the basis for his action? Is it fear of retribution?” he said on Facebook.

DILG Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya, also the agency’s spokesperson, on Monday said that 20,085 LGUs across the country have already issued resolutions against the CPP-NPA-NDF in their jurisdictions.