DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 22 December) – Bayan Muna party list Representative Carlos Isagani Zarate, the subject of four consecutive weeks of warnings by President Rodrigo Duterte for allegedly conspiring with the New People’s Army (NPA), accepted on Tuesday the President’s challenge for a one-on-one meeting.
In his “Talk to the People on COVID-19” aired late Monday night, Duterte asked Zarate to call Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, his former Special Assistant, to arrange a one-on-one meeting in Davao City or Manila.
Duterte is in Davao City for the holidays.
“Tawagan mo si Bong. Gusto mo sa bahay ninyo? Ako ang mag-akyat sa bahay ninyo. Saan? Dito o sa Maynila or saan ka nakatira? Mag-usap tayo. Huwag na ‘yang NPA-NPA, komunista-komunista. Lalaki sa lalaki. Gusto kitang makausap” (Call Bong. You want it in your house? I will go to your house. Where? Here or in Manila or where you are residing? Let us talk. Never mind the NPA-NPA, communist-communist. Man to man. I want to talk to you), Duterte said.
In response, Zarate, in a statement sent to reporters Tuesday morning, said: “If it is for the benefit of the people, I am always ready and willing to talk.”
Zarate told MindaNews he had gotten in touch with Go who said he would get back to him on the President’s reply. As of 9 p.m. Tuesday, Zarate was still waiting for feedback from Go.
Duterte dared Zarate to “tanggapin mo ang hamon ko” (accept my challenge).
He said he will meet Zarate without security escorts and Zarate can bring along former Senator Antonio Trillanes “if you want a bodyguard.”
He called Zarate a “hypocrite” and a “chauvinist pig.” Three weeks earlier, on November 30, he described Zarate as “tae ng aso” (dog’s poop) and warned him, “bantay ka sa akin” (you better watch out).
On Monday night, Duterte leafed through Zarate’s dossier and said he has every information he needs to read, complete with photographs, including Zarate’s accepting his diploma during his high school graduation. Earlier, he cited a copy of Zarate’s birth certificate.
For the fourth time in his weekly “Talk to the People,” Duterte last Monday again hit Zarate, a fellow Mindanawon from General Santos City who later moved to Davao City, this time, zeroing in on Zarate’s son, Xandro, who he said is studying Philosophy in Poland and has allegedly been traveling “all over Europe.”
Duterte said Zarate claimed Xandro’s education in Europe was financed by his grandmother but they checked the records and found no property, no income so how could she have spent for Xandro’s education?
“At saka kung ang suweldo mo, Zarate, iyan ang ginagastos mo para sa anak mo, pinapasa mo doon sa nanay mo na matanda na, eh you’re pulling everybody’s leg. Huwag mo kaming bolahin. Baka kaya siguro ang ginagastos mo ‘yung pera ng kinokolekta ng mga NPA dito” (If it is your salary, Zarate, that is being spent for your son, you are passing it on to your mother who is old, you’re pulling everybody’s leg. Do not fool us. You are likely spending the money collected by the NPA for your son), Duterte said.
Zarate’s mother passed away in August 2016, a year before Xandro left for Poland.
In a statement, Zarate said his son, an only child, went to Poland in September 2017 to take up philosophy at Pope John Paul II University. “He came home in July 2019 to complete his bachelor’s degree in a school here,” he said.
“His tuition, board and other expenses were mainly sponsored by relatives residing abroad. His mother, a lawyer, and I also supported him within our means of income. The expenses for his studies and upkeep came from honest and legitimate sources,” Zarate said.
Nov. 30, Dec. 7, 16, 21
In his November 30 ”Talk to the People on COVID-19,” Duterte declared the Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives as members of a “grand conspiracy” to overthrow the government, and said the Armed Forces of the Philippines is “very correct” in tagging them as communists. Addressing Zarate, he warned: “bantay ka sa akin” (you better watch out).
“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” under the National Democratic Front, Communist Party of the Philippines and New People’s Army.
On December 7, Duterte continued his tirades against the Makabayan Bloc for its alleged conspiracy, again singling out Zarate. “The act of one is the act of all … The act of a soldier NPA, is the act of Zarate, a congressman,” he said.
“So what do we do? Well, I’m trying to sort out what we will do to you because you are now criminals and I said I have pointed out we are not only tagging you….. We are identifying you and we will identify you anytime you want,” he said, warning he would “name all of you” before his term ends on June 30, 2022.
Duterte said “all communists are bad because all of you are conspiring to overthrow the government.”
On December 16, Duterte reiterated his earlier pronouncements about a conspiracy to overthrow the government and again singled out Zarate. “Ikaw, Zarate, bantay ka” (You Zarate, you better watch out).
The Makabayan Bloc in a statement on December 8 said the President’s claims about an alleged conspiracy “cannot be allowed to pass.”
It said Duterte was foisting on the public a “flawed and dangerous legal theory” to justify intensified attacks on his critics.
“It erases any distinction between the legal and illegal, the unarmed activists and armed rebels, in utter disregard for due process and fundamental freedoms. It paves the way for more acts of state repression and violence on our ranks,” Makabayan said.
It said Duterte and his officials “do not have any credible evidence against us, because if so they would have gone to court a long time ago.”
As of December 21, no charges have been filed against Zarate, a third-termer Representative, or other members of the Makabayan Bloc. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)