Duterte to Makabayan bloc: 'We are not red-tagging you, we are identifying you as communists'

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 30) – President Rodrigo Duterte denied the government is red-tagging Makabayan bloc organizations, but said he supports the military's assertion that they are fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

"We are not red-tagging you. We are identifying you as members in a grand conspiracy comprising all the legal fronts that you have organized headed by NDF (National Democratic Front) and Communist Party of the Philippines," Duterte said during the weekly briefing of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases on Monday.

The President also denounced the communist movement, saying it does not have any ideology and is only bent on unseating the government.

"May mga ilang tao na nanggaling sa inyong kampo na (There are some former members who) openly attacked you, not only criticized, for your sheer brutality in this communal war," he said.

He also briefly commented on the death of Jevilyn Cullamat, a Lumad and a daughter of Bayan Muna Rep. Eufemia Cullamat, during a clash between government troops and the New People's Army in Surigao del Sur last Saturday.

"Kita niyo iyong kay Cullamat, anak niya mismo, babae pa. Sigurado patay iyan, ilaban mo sa sundalo, patay iyan (Look what happened to Cullamat, her daughter, a Of course, she'll get killed if she faces the troops, she will die)."

The President warned that Lumads allied to the CPP and the NPA will soon become "an extinct tribe" if they do not cut their ties and return to their homes.

READ: Lawmaker's daughter killed in Surigao del Sur clash 

Duterte challenged CPP founder Jose Maria Sison to a debate on the "communist" ideology. He also took a swipe at Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate for being a "communist and a co-conspirator" of the NPA.

The Makabayan bloc has repeatedly denied they are members of the CPP, which has been waging a five-decade armed struggle against the Philippine government.

Former Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Teddy Casiño said in a Senate hearing last week the government must reach out to communist rebels on their concerns, instead of denouncing them outright as enemies.

National Intelligence Coordinating Agency chief Alex Paul Monteagudo said the CPP through its armed wing, the New People's Army, is not just rebelling against the government but is branded as a terrorist organization.

The Duterte administration created the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict to mobilize government resources in a "whole-of-nation approach" in fighting the CPP-NPA and compelling its members to surrender to the government. Task force spokesperson Gen. Antonio Parlade drew flak recently for red-tagging celebrities involved with Makabayan bloc organizations.

Twelve organizations are under Makabayan, namely: Bayan Muna, ACT Teachers, Anakpawis, Gabriela, Kabataan, Katribu, Migrante, Akap-Bata, COURAGE, Piston, Kalikasan, and Aking Bikolnon.

Aside from Cullamat and Zarate, other lawmakers of the Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives are Ferdinand Gaite of Bayan Muna, Sarah Elago of Kabataan, France Castro of ACT-Teachers, and Arlene Brosas of Gabriela.

In a statement last Monday, Gaite defended the bloc and said that the President's fresh tirades only hatch a "chilling propaganda to legitimize red-tagging and subsequent attacks against their critics."

He added: "We from the Makabayan bloc are busy in Congress drafting laws to benefit the people...walang rebelyon, walang pagpapatalsik, ang meron lang ay mga panukalang batas para mapabuti ang kalagayan ng mamamayan (there is neither rebellion nor ouster attempts, what we do is to craft measures that will improve the welfare of the people)."