Red-tagged Davao City councilor dropped from Hugpong lineup

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 18 November) – A city councilor seeking reelection under Hugpong ng Pagbabago-Hugpong sa Tawong Lungsod (HNP-HTL) but was removed from the party’s official slate believed she is a victim of red-tagging by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

In a statement Wednesday, First District Councilor Pamela Librado said the NTF-ELCAC linked her to the communist movement.

Davao City Councilor Pamela Librado at a City Council session. Photo from her Facebook page

She said the task force labeled her as the “Gabriela personality,” participating in the elections “to support the establishment of migrant desks in the city’s first district purportedly used as front organizations.”

She called the allegations “baseless and malicious” and deprived her of an opportunity to defend herself.

Librado, however, said she might withdraw her candidacy for next year’s elections within the week.

“Rest assured that I will continue to discharge the functions of my office until the end of my term. My decision is a result of a consensus that while we have established our name and effectively infused our principle-based politics, the existing political realities are such that political parties dominate and could frustrate the will and voice of the majority,” she said.

In his statement, Vice Mayor Sebastian Duterte said Librado was removed from HNP-HTL’s roster for the city council as the “party believes that their ideals are not in line with the political party’s vision for Davao City and the Philippines.”

The vice mayor substituted his sister, Mayor Sara Duterte, after the latter dropped her bid for reelection to run for vice president.

Librado said “the Librado brand of politics” espoused by her late father, labor leader Erasto “Noynoy” Librado who became councilor, has always been known for progressive and pro-people stance, defending the marginalized and oppressed.

“The progressive, pro-people brand of politics espoused by our late father…was consistently upheld by my mother and my sisters in the City Council by amplifying various issues affecting marginalized sectors, even if it meant going against the current,” she said.

The councilor admitted encountering challenges during her first year in the council for standing with the Lumads, particularly for recommending the need to investigate the closure of Lumad schools in the city, which cost her office the Annual Development Fund in 2019.

“I was treated as a pariah for speaking about the need to investigate the closure of Lumad schools in the City… Despite this, I made no complaints and continued with my work. I remained resolute in continuing with community-based programs such as organic urban gardening, health and vaccine education, mobile community kitchen, and several programs that help empower the community,” she added.

She said the lack of resources did not deter her office from pursuing the plans and programs for her constituents.

“This situation allowed us to showcase that plans and programs could be effectively implemented with all stakeholders’ participation, involvement, and empowerment,” she said.

Librado added that she stood her ground against demolition, martial law, and the Anti-Terror Bill, even if it meant going against the majority opinion of the the council.

“Though members of the SP (Sangguniang Panlungsod) and I didn’t see eye to eye on all issues, the discussion was principled. I was open to the HNP, the HTL, my fellow councilors, and the people of Davao about my plans, views, and projects. I hid behind no one, and I am proud to say that I accord anyone, regardless of differing principles, respect and decency. This is one of the core lessons my father, labor leader Nonoy Librado, taught me,” she said.

She said among the innovative and people-oriented legislation and programs they enacted were the establishment of the first “Lamayan ng Bayan” in Barangay 5A, the establishment of the mothers’ class, women’s lying-in clinic, anti-trafficking ordinance, no demolition policy without relocation with complete basic facilities, and the juvenile justice intervention mechanism.

“Likewise, our work included being the proponents of the first-ever Women’s Development Code and introducing necessary amendments to the Children’s Welfare Code of Davao City,” she added.

She said other legislations at the council authored by her sisters, former councilors Atty. Angela Librado-Trinidad and Atty. Leah Librado-Yap during their time included the barangay-based justice system, conflict resolution, juvenile welfare, women’s development.

“This included comprehensive services for reproductive health, victims of trafficking and crisis intervention, children’s rights and welfare, gender sensitivity, shelter and housing, and codification of existing city ordinances,” she added.

Aside from Librado, Councilor Nilo Abellera Sr. was also removed from the Hugpong slate.

Former Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio earlier said the fund allotted for the NTF-ELCAC could be used for vote-buying, citing that barangays declared as insurgency-free would receive P20 million each from its budget.

The task force received a P19-billion budget in 2021. The Department of Budget of Management proposed to increase the amount to P28 billion in 2022, but the Senate finance committee reduced it to P4 billion and reallocated the rest of the amount for COVID-19 response.

In a statement last week, the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform said that while it welcomes the Senate finance committee’s decision [to cut the NTF-ELCAC budget], “P4 billion is still a very substantial amount for an agency that, since its existence, espoused a culture of hatred and violence instead of a culture of dialogue and peace.”

“The NTF-ELCAC receives billions of pesos in the wake of President Duterte’s unilateral termination of peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in 2017. The government could have used these billions of pesos to address the basic needs of our people, especially in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, it raises an issue of transparency as even the Commission of Audit has admitted having trouble auditing the expenses,” the statement said.

“Contrary to its name to end local armed conflicts, the NTF-ELCAC becomes a hindrance to the promise of peace. The NTF-ELCAC is now the critical weapon in the total war against the so-called terrorists. This total war relies on the use of violent means. Consequently, it only increases the violations in human rights and international humanitarian law.” It added. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)