Former DSWD Secretary slams Lorenzana for red-tagging: You're putting my life in danger

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 9) — Former Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo on Tuesday denounced remarks by the defense chief associating her with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

"Calling me a member of the CPP is actually red-tagging me and putting my life in danger, given the atmosphere of impunity in our country now," Taguiwalo said on CNN Philippines' The Source.

She said she and Lorenzana have worked together for some time in the Cabinet and he has seen how she served the government, including providing assistance to military victims or their families.

"Secretary Delfin, I hope you don't continue in red-tagging me," she continued. "Whatever label you call me, I have served the country well. And I have the track record to prove that."

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana made the remarks after Taguiwalo opposed the appointment of a military official to her previous post. President Rodrigo Duterte named Army chief Lt. Gen. Rolando Bautista as the next Social Welfare Secretary, and he is poised to take the position after his retirement.

"She should respect it as we respected the decision of the President to appoint her to the position knowing that she is a CPP member. Did the security sector... object?" said Lorenzana, referring to the military and police. "No."

Taguiwalo clarified she is a member of Makabayan, not the CPP. She is also a Professor 8 at the University of the Philippines' College of Social Work and Community Development.

Government critics have slammed Duterte's administration for red-tagging, most recently when the military listed ten schools where supposed CPP recruitment occurs. The schools were also associated with a supposed "Red October" plot to ouster Duterte — but many of the institutions have decried the list.

Malacañang Palace has also linked members of the political opposition in the alleged plot, although the Armed Forces of the Philippines has since disassociated them from the alleged ouster.

The government previously named other critics, including United Nations Special Rapporteur Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, in a list that sought to tag communist rebels as terrorists.

Related: UN urges PH to remove human rights defenders from terror list

Taguiwalo was one of the left-leaning members of Duterte's early Cabinet, before peace talks with the CPP soured. The Committee on Appointments rejected her confirmation. Other officials of similar political opinions who have since left or been removed from Duterte's administration are former Anti-Poverty Commissioner Liza Maza, former Agrarian Reform Chief Rafael Mariano, and Labor Undersecretary Joel Maglunsod.

Related: Leftist undersecretary fired by Duterte was doing a good job, Bello says

The former social welfare chief clarified that her position against Bautista's appointment was not personal, and she was only concerned about what a military appointment would mean for the department.

"There are so many qualified social workers, social development workers who have been in the department for so long, or who have been [giving] assistance to vulnerable groups and communities for the longest time," said Taguiwalo. "It is not a question of questioning Gen. Bautista himself, but a military man in active service being appointed to a civilian position a day after his retirement — so we're talking of experience, background in another field."

She also emphasized that the hierarchical structure of military organizations was different from the consultative process of development work.

Bautista is the latest in a string of military officials appointed across government agencies. A few others include former Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Eduardo Año as Interior Undersecretary and Environment Chief Gen. Roy Cimatu.

Taguiwalo raised concern about appointing officials with little experience to civilian agencies. She stressed the "principle of civilian supremacy over the military."

She said such appointments blur the distinction between the military's role as protector and the role of the civilian agencies as the main provider of services. It also leads to mlilitarization of the state, she added.