Minority Senators Franklin M. Drilon, Risa Hontiveros, Leila de Lima and Francis Pangilinan “vehemently denounced” National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) Director General Alex Monteagudo and National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) spokesperson Lorraine Badoy for branding the Senate employee union, Sandigan ng mga Empleyadong Nagkakaisa sa Adhikain ng Demokratikong Organisasyon, (SENADO) as a communist front organization.

“We strongly condemn the red-tagging of the union of Senate employees and we vehemently denounce government officials who continue to label, brand, vilify, and harass individuals and organizations such as SENADO as state enemies and subversives,” the minority senators said.

“National Intelligence Coordinating Agency Director General Alex Paul Monteagudo and Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy’s malicious attacks on our employees must not be taken lightly,” they added.

Monteagudo alleges in a Facebook post on Tuesday, April 6 that the Senate employees’ union “serves as the eyes and ears” of the Communist Party of the Philippines, its armed wing the National People’s Army, and its political arm the National Democratic Front “to hijack government plans and programs.”  He, however, did not present any piece of evidence to back up his allegation.

In the same post, Monteagudo accused SENADO of having links with labor rights group Confederation for Unity, Recognition, and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE), which he also accused of having ties with the CPP-NPA-NDF.

On Wednesday, Badoy rehashed the same allegations against SENADO, without presenting any evidence, in a column published on the Philippine News Agency’s website.

“Hindi lang ito pag-atake at paninira nang walang batayan sa mga empleyado, kundi mismong sa institusyon ng Senado na kanilang kinakatawan,” the Senate minority said.

The minority senators said SENADO is a legitimate union of workers that “upholds the interest and welfare of Senate employees, not of any other group” as it that has successfully negotiated 3 collective negotiations agreements with past Senate presidents, including Drilon who Senate president for over 8 years.

In March, SENADO slammed the government for its red-tagging activities. It added that COURAGE has consistently advocated for the interests and welfare of government workers including security of tenure, wages and benefits and better working conditions.

Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III belied Monteagudo and Badoy’s claims saying SENADO has no links with the communist rebels and if it were true, he would be the first to know.

“He (Monteagudo) must have been misinformed. I would be the first to sense of such if ever. I’ve been there (in the Senate) since 1992,” Sotto said.

Sotto said he wants NICA to provide him the list of Senate employees allegedly working with the CPP-NPA-NDF so that his office could conduct a proper investigation.

He added that Monteagudo should send him the list and that he will keep it “confidential”.

The minority senators, on the other hand, renewed their call to pass Senate Bill 2121 that would criminalize red-tagging.

“We believe that the passage of this bill will serve as a deterrent against red-tagging. We should punish irresponsible officials who act as enablers of red-tagging,” they said.

Because of the red-tagging against Senate employees, Sotto said he is “now inclined” to back the bill penalizing red-tagging.

Both Monteagudo and Badoy have become notorious for their red-tagging posts aimed at critics of President Rodrigo Duterte.

A Rappler investigative story in 2018 showed Monteagudo’s long history of spreading disinformation online.

In September 2020, 21 congressmen filed a resolution calling for Badoy’s resignation for her continued red-tagging of Makabayan bloc lawmakers.

Badoy was suspended from posting on her Facebook account for 30 days starting March 15 for violating the social media platform’s “community standards” by repeated posts red-tagging individuals and groups without presenting any evidence. – Rommel F. Lopez