The wisdom of Senator Loren Legarda

“The way to go…is to restart the peace process with the Communist rebels, to encourage and entice them to return to the fold of the law, throw away their arms and become partners with the civil government and the society at large in addressing social inequality and social injustice”

In a privilege speech a week or so ago, Senator Loren Legarda supported the resumption of peace talks with the National Democratic Front and the Communist Party of the Philippines.

In the course of her speech, she argued that there is nothing illegal in being a leftist in reaction to Sen. Francis Tolentino’s proposal for the government to require public officials to disclose ties to people who belong to groups tagged by the government as terrorists, like the Abu Sayyaf and the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People’s Army.

“Believing in policies and philosophies that may be left of center, so to speak, does not make anyone subversive,” Legarda said then, adding that she has worked with the left and that there is “nothing wrong with that.”

In a subsequent statement, Senator Legarda made it clear that she favored “peace talks that are built upon a genuine desire to come to an agreement, which are within our democratic framework and in accordance with all our laws.”

According to her, “I believe the best way to achieve this is by building mutual understanding through good faith discussions, through which we can find that we have more that unites us than what sets us apart.”

These statements have caused consternation among anti-communist personalities in government and media.

A group of social media influencers, clearly directed by some invisible hand, have attacked Senator Loren for saying what she and many of us have been saying all these years.

I am reminded of how, in the 1950s, US Senator Joseph McCarthy embarked on a vociferous and hysterical campaign against alleged Communists in the US government and other institutions, indiscriminately accusing, albeit mostly unfounded, an untold number of officials who, because of false imputations of Communist linkages were persecuted, alienated, and pilloried by the government and the public.

Many lost their jobs, were unfairly punished, prosecuted, and became pariahs in their own country.

In time, however, most charges were either dismissed or overturned on appeal, laws repealed for being unconstitutional.

As a result, McCarthyism, as a practice, fell into disrepute, repudiated, and since has become a byname for defamation and calumny.

It seems that many in our government have finally been overtaken by this McCarthy hysteria. Suddenly, branding a person or organization as a Communist/Communist sympathizer and therefore an “enemy of the state” is now fashionable.

Red-tagging has become a knee-jerk response against activists, government critics, cause-oriented groups and whosoever may catch the accuser’s fancy.

This practice may be shrugged off as a nuisance if not for the perils that it engenders.

Many Red-tagged individuals have been falsely charged in court, imprisoned, or worse killed as a result.

People engage in Red-baiting out of paranoia, malice, bias, or outright ignorance. Paranoia and intolerance because, in their convoluted world, any and all individuals who do not conform to their beliefs and way of thinking are enemies lurking in every corner out to pounce on the unsuspecting victim.

Indeed, it is wrong, indeed absurd, to lump all militant and progressive organizations as terrorists.

This is why I do not see why there is so much hoopla about Senator Loren Legarda’s supposed admission that she has, in the past, worked with the Left.

Unlike in the past, being a member of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) is no longer a crime with the repeal of the Anti-Subversion law during the Ramos administration. Working with the Left or even becoming a Leftist is by no means synonymous with being a terrorist.

Then Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra himself clarified that mere membership in the CPP is not terrorism.

“As long as activism remains in the realm of ideology, there is nothing to be alarmed about,” the former Justice Secretary emphatically made clear after the Interior secretary called for the revival of the Anti-subversion law.

The Anti-Subversion law or Republic Act 1700 was an antiquated law enacted in the late 1950s to counter the nascent Hukbalahap movement.

Together with Presidential Decree 1835, which codified the anti-subversion laws and penalized membership in subversive organizations, the Anti-Subversion law was the main instrument used by the Marcos regime to suppress and repress the opposition, resulting in massive and horrific human rights abuses. That is why the Anti Terror Law must be also repealed.

The way to go, and on this, I agree with Senator Loren Legarda, is to restart the peace process with the Communist rebels, to encourage and entice them to return to the fold of the law, throw away their arms and become partners with the civil government and the society at large in addressing social inequality and social injustice.

I agreed with Senator Legarda that peace negotiations are the way to go when it comes to ending armed conflict, which she said has hindered the country’s development for over half a century.

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