Dispatch from Crame No. 834: Sen. Leila M. de Lima on the Red-Tagging of Sr. Mary John Mananzan


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This administration and its pseudo-journalist trolls have a thing for strong, fighting women. Barely a week after the conviction of Maria Ressa for cyber-libel—a conviction that may, God forbid, presage what is in store for me in my own cases because of the shaken independence of the judiciary–administration lackeys have trained their sights on Sr. Mary John Mananzan for her reaction on Ressa’s conviction by the trial judge who turns out to be one of her school’s very own alumna.

The targeting of Sr. Mary John is particularly insidious and evil. They painted her red as a communist sympathizer, or even as a party member. For those working with the poor sectors of society out in the open, red-tagging can inevitably be a death sentence.

With the culture of impunity and summary executions prevailing during these times, extra-legal violence is not very far off for the government to use in dealing with what it considers as threats to its security. In fact, the impending signing into law of the Anti-Terror Bill is the harbinger of such sustained extra-legal action against popular movements and mass organizations that the military identifies as front organizations of the CPP-NDF-NPA.

During the Arroyo Administration, they facetiously called it a legal offensive on the left, when in fact there was nothing legal about it. It was a targeted campaign to arrest members of leftist organizations on mostly manufactured charges, not for rebellion, sedition or any political crime, but for common crimes.

The Anti-Terror Bill can be considered as this administration’s version of Arroyo’s “legal offensive” on the left. Both were launched at the tail-end of the term of incumbent presidents, simply because of this perennial obsession of the AFP with the destruction of the CPP-NPA every time a president’s term is about to end.

We cannot understand this obsession, not when every report from the security sector claims that the CPP-NPA is mostly a spent force, with reportedly no new known cadres coming in to fill up the posts of the remaining and aging party members. The AFP is better off dealing with real enemies, like those invading Philippine outposts in the West Philippine Sea.

The administration’s current obsession with Sr. Mary John is reflective of this ridiculous government offensive on elderly women and men it sees as threats to society, or even as terrorists. And they even intend to use the newly-minted Anti-Terror Bill to achieve this despicable objective.

Again, contrary to Duterte’s favorite midnight ghost story that the most dangerous threat to the country is the CPP-NPA, the only real and immediate threat to this nation right now is the COVID-19 pandemic, and his government’s bungling response to this health crisis. Never mind that he is already exercising absolute powers, both as delivered to him by Congress and those he uses through threats, intimidation and violence as a de facto dictator.

Duterte has made us realize in this pandemic that being a dictator does not automatically translate into being a competent leader. Despite his special powers and absolute control over all government institutions, he still blames everyone for the country’s problems but himself. We wonder if he will ever run out of excuses, or ever tire of finding scapegoats for his clueless and visionless leadership. What is clear is that Duterte will go on blaming everyone but himself, including old men and women, for the mess that he has gotten the country into. ###

(Access the handwritten copy of Dispatch from Crame No. 834, here: https://issuu.com/senatorleilam.delima/docs/dispatch_834)

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