MANILA, Philippines – As congressman, you projected yourself as someone who is against human rights abuses, but why have you been silent on reports of abuses by the New People's Army (NPA)?
This was the question posed by administration senatorial candidate Risa Hontiveros to Makabayan candidate Teddy Casiño at the Rappler senatorial debate Saturday, April 13.
The two come from different factions of the Leftist movement – Casiño, with the so-called reaffirmists and Hontiveros, with the so-called rejectionists. The reaffirmists continue to support Communist Party of the Philippines chief Jose Maria Sison; the rejectionists no longer accept the old party's strategy and tactics. The NPA is the armed unit of the CPP.
"Sabay nating siningil si General Jovito Palparan sa mga human rights violations. Sabay nating siningil ang mga tumutugis sa Batasan 5. Ngunit bakit hindi ko narinig na minsan na magsalita kung pang-aabuso na ng NPA sa ordinaryong mamayan?" Hontiveros said.
(We both held General Jovito Palparan accountable for human rights violations. We both held those after the Batasan 5 accountable. But why is it that I've never heard you talk about the abuse committed by the NPA against ordinary citizens?)
Casiño said he would rather focus on the human rights abuses committed by the "men in uniform" rather than those committed by communist rebels.
"Based on info on the ground, it's really the persons in uniform who commit more abuses," he said. "The biggest problem when we present cases to the military, the automatic answers are denials that's why there is no justice. Unlike the rebels who are already accountable to the law, men in uniform have ties with the people who investigate them."
But Hontiveros once again challenged his image as a human rights advocate, questioning Casiños' flip-flopping stand on the freedom of information (FOI) bill and the reproductive health law.
Casiño and the other Bayan Muna representatives in the House withdrew their authorship of the FOI bill while they voted yes to the now RH law "with reservations."
On the FOI bill, Casiño said it was not them who backed down on the bill but Malacañang, which introduced a watered down version of the measure.
On the RH bill, Casiño said he did not believe that overpopulation was a problem but they decided to vote yes after their concerns were addressed in the end.
Hontiveros is a member of the political party Akbayan, which is part of the administration coalition Team PNoy.
This is her second bid for a Senate seat. As guest candidate of the Liberal Party in 2010, she lost in the race. She finished 13th out of 61 senatorial candidates that year, garnering 9.1 million votes.
Before that, she was a congresswoman for 6 years, representing Akbayan in the party list.
Casiño is on his third term as congressman, representing Bayan Muna in the party list. He is the lone candidate of Makabayan Party in the 2013 senatorial polls. Before becoming congressman, he was a student leader, a newspaper columnist, and spokesperson of the progressive group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan.
Watch the #RapplerDebate here. It is also being aired live in 120 Radyo Natin stations nationwide. – Rappler.com