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Luke Espiritu Faced Off With Salvador Panelo, Here's What Happened

Tackling issues from red-tagging to wealth tax.
by Pia Regalado
Just now
Photo/s: Composite

Senatorial candidates Luke Espiritu and Salvador Panelo agreed that red-tagging is wrong, but disagreed on the existence of the government's anti-communist insurgency task force, as they faced off in a forum late on Thursday.

The two candidates from polar ends of the political spectrum were asked by members of the Rotary Club during the "RVote" forum about their thoughts on red-tagging, to which Espiritu said "bawal na 'yan."

"I have been called several times in those comments na ako'y CPP-NPA at terrorist. That is an evil that we must stamp out and we must stamp it out quickly,” lawyer and labor leader Espiritu said.

Panelo the former Palace spokesperson and chief legal counsel, agreed. He said he had spoken with former NTF-ELCAC officials on red-tagging the organizers of community pantries that popped up during the pandemic to encourage sharing of food to those in need.

"I tell them, ‘Kung sa tingin n'yo ’yan ay komunista na kasama sa underground, idemanda n'yo. Hindi pupuwedeng i-red-tag.’ I am against that. Kung mayroon kang pruweba, then sue,” he said.

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ALSO READ: Sorry, Not Sorry: Hidilyn Triumphs as Panelo is Caught in Own 'Matrix'

The two were at odds on abolishing the NTF-ELCAC, which Espiritu said has no place in a democratic society.

Panelo disagreed: “Nakausap ko 'yung mga LGU officials. Ang sinasabi nila, gustong-gusto nila ’yong project na iyon sapagkat ’yon ang nagpatalo sa mga lokal na rebelde doon. Noong dumating ang mga pondong iyan, mayroon sila ng mga farm-to-market roads, maraming proyekto para sa bayan nila, kaya nawala yung mga rebelde roon sa kanila.

Espiritu replied: “Kung iyon ang purpose ng NTF-ELCAC, lalong dapat buwagin lalo... Kung ang purpose ng NTF-ELCAC ay gagawa ng daan, gagawin ang civic duty nila, that’s already being done by the DSWD and the DPWH. Alam nating ang purpose ng NTF-ELCAC ay maging Makapili, 'yung nung panahon ng Hapon, 'yung nagtuturo kung sino papatayin?”

The labor leader cited as example slain activist and volunteer teacher for indigenous peoples Chad Booc, who was red-tagged several times before he was killed in an alleged encounter with the military.

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"Ano nangyari sa kanya? E 'di patay. We have to abolish the NTF-ELCAC, walang redeeming value 'yan."

The two also disagreed on whether they would vote for the return of the Philippines in the International Criminal Court if they win on May 9.

"Dapat lang talaga na nand'yan ang ICC, kasi para ma-prosecute natin ang state actors na gumagawa ng mass killings at mass murder at isa na d'yan dapat na ma-prosecute, I'm telling you, is Rodrigo Duterte," said Espiritu.

Panelo, like his former boss Duterte, said the Philippines doesn't need meddling from foreign institutions. "Meron naman tayong judicial system na malusog, talagang it's working. Bakit papakielaman pa tayo ng ibang institusyong international regarding the prosecution of what they perceive to be offenders?"

Espirutu and Panelo agreed on imposing wealth tax. For Espiritu, taxing the richest families will generate enough funds which could be used for mass housing. Panelo agreed without expounding his reasons.

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The two were also asked how they would act in Senate under a Robredo administration for Panelo and a Marcos presidency for Espiritu.

Panelo said he is friends with Leni Robredo and that he could work with any candidate.

"Sinoman ang nakatanggap ng mandato ng bansa, we have to respect and we have to cooperate, hindi pupuwedeng wala na tayong gagawin kundi pulaan natin."

Espiritu said he would be "uncompromising" and that he would stand against any form of authoritarian rule.

"Whenever Bongbong Marcos invokes the memory of his father and does the same thing, I'm pretty sure, I'm gonna be certain and I'm gonna make a vow to Bongbong Marcos, I'm going to oppose him come what may. I'll even give my own life to fight," he said.


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