MANILA, Philippines — Citing National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr.’s red-tagging done before the open court, petitioners against the anti-terrorism law asked the tribunal to cancel the military officer’s appearance in the oral arguments setting set on Monday.
In a two-page omnibus motion on Friday, petitioners also asked the Supreme Court to delete or expunge from records Esperon’s oral statements, video presentation and annotations in May 12 setting of the debates.
During the course of the oral arguments on the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, government lawyers deferred answering questions on military officials’ red-tagging and national security to Esperon who face the SC justices on Wednesday.
The petitioners noted that the military officer, without even having been sworn, only presented “statements and video presentations… not responsive to the issues being heard by this Court.”
“But the supreme irony is that Secretary Esperon was able to engage in red-tagging before this very Court, when red-tagging was one of the grave dangers that impelled petitioners to come to this Court in the first place,” they added.
Videos not even authenticated
Last Wednesday, Esperon asked the SC if he could play a two-minute video of Communist Party of the Philippines founder Joma Sison, whom the NSA baselessly referred to as “number one red-tagger,” where the latter supposedly names organizations allied with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.
The NSA also asked to play another video of Sison where he supposedly named several progressive organizations, including some petitioners, as fronts of the communist rebellion.
The petitioners pointed out that the authenticity of the two videos Esperon presented “was not even previously established pursuant to Section 1, Rule 11 of the Rules of Electronic Evidence.”
The said rule states that audio, photographic and video evidence shall be admissible if shown to the court and shall be identified, explained or authenticated by the person who made the recording or another competent to testify on the accuracy thereof.
The organizations named in Esperon’s video, some of which are petitioners themselves, were also not given the opportunity to rebut the NSA’s indictments, they said.
“Petitioners submit that respondent Esperon’s statements and so-called evidence should be stricken off the record because they are not responsive to the questions posed,” they told the SC.
“It is in fact ironic that, when the Court wanted to know if the situation today is reminiscent of McCarthyism, he actually engaged in McCarthyite red-tagging, which is deadly business in the Philippines,” they added.
The petitioners stressed: “No one — specially our government officials — should be allowed to use the proceedings of this Court as a platform to engage in acts that are not only anomalous but downright dangerous.”
The ninth setting of the oral arguments on the anti-terrorism law petitions is set on Monday afternoon. Retired Chief Justice Reynato Puno and former Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza, named amici curiae (friends of court), will also present their statements on Monday.
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