Press Release
November 3, 2020

Opening Statement of Senator Risa Hontiveros
Senate Committee on National Defense and Security, Peace, Unification and Reconciliation

Magandang umaga, Mr. Chair, fellow senators, resource persons. I come to this hearing because of two things that are important of me: the first is the protection of women from threats - both veiled and overt - and malicious accusations; and the second is national security.

Yung una, madali na siguro unawain, hindi po ba? Nagpapakita ng kamulatan, critical thinking at pakikipag-kapwa tao sina Liza Soberano, Catriona Gray at Angel Locsin, ano ang sinusukli sa kanila? Red-tagging at mayroon pang kasamang death threat. I cannot begin to imagine the anguish and emotional toll this must have taken on these women who have been directly-hit by these accusations, as well as their families. I am certain that it also caused a chilling effect on citizens who only want to weigh in on issues of national importance and hold government to account for its failures to the people. Free speech is essential to democracy and nation-building. It should not be suppressed, and least of all by red-tagging.

The second point, however, is equally disturbing. The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) has been allocated a proposed budget of 19 Billion Pesos (PhP19B) for 2021, 16 Billion (PhP16B) of which has been earmarked for its Barangay Development Program.

This is a considerable amount of money. It is more than the proposed budget for the Department of Housing Settlements and Urban Development (PhP632M), Office of the Ombudsman (PhP3.36B), Department of Budget & Management (PhP1.9B), and even the Department of Finance (PhP17.46B).

Moreover, our officials are spending an inordinate amount of time running after ordinary citizens using the communist bogeyman. In the meantime, a former AFP chief has stated that China will seize the Philippines by force if a war were to break out between Beijing and Washington. Is this not a more imminent and more compelling threat? Todo nakafocus sa CPP at sa NPA -- the remnants of an insurgency facing imminent defeat in the battlefield-- pero walang angal na papapasukin sa ating bansa ang isang dayuhan bayan.

Mr. Chair, I was a member of the GRP-NDF peace panel on the side of the GRP. The issues of the communist insurgency are not new to me. My party Akbayan historically has called for human rights accountability also of non-state actors, at kasama dito ang NPA. I will not hesitate to speak against the violations of the NPA as I have done.

But I will not sit idly in the face of red-tagging and scare tactics by uniformed agents of the state. Especially when they are perpetrated against ordinary civilians, including women. And especially when there is a bigger enemy that is not being confronted.

We are holding this hearing on the heels of the strongest typhoon of the world for 2020. Ito ay direktang tumama sa Bicol region, na isa sa mga rehiyon na identified na may communist insurgency problem. Ngayon pa lang sasabihin ko na: yang 16 billion pesos na budget ng NTFAC barangay development program, I will call for a portion of it to be reallocated to typhoon rehabilitation. I already called for 8 billion to be reallocated to health. Magreallocate din tayo para sa mga kababayan nating mga nasalanta.

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