DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 15 February) – Filipinos who espouse communism should not fear red-tagging but be proud that he or she is a communist, former Defense Secretary and National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales, now a Presidential candidate, said.
“If you’re a communist and you love your ideology, come out, express it,” Gonzales, who is running under the Partido Demokratiko Sosyalista ng Pilipinas (PDSP) told the online forum, Candid Dates 2022 on Monday.
Candid Dates 2022 is a series of online conversations between Mindanawon voters and candidates running for President, Vice President and local seats in the May 9, 2022 elections, presented by the Davao Association of Catholic Schools (DACS). It is co-presented by the Initiatives for International Dialogue, MindaNews and the Mindanao Consortium of Ateneo comprising the Ateneo de Davao, Zamboanga and Cagayan de Oro.
“What is your answer to red-tagging? You just say so: ‘What if I’m red? I have my constitutional rights. I’m not carrying a gun, I’m not advocating violence,” he said
A graduate of pre-Medicine at the Ateneo de Davao University, Gonzales served in the Cabinet of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo from 2001 to 2010. He was Political Adviser from 2001 to 2004, Presidential Chief of Staff from 2004 to 2005, National Security Adviser from 2005 to 2007 and Defense Secretary in 2007 and in 2009 to 2010.
Gonzales explained that communism “is not illegal in the Philippines.”
“To be a communist is a right that is even constitutionally guaranteed. You want to be a communist? If you want to start a communist party, you want to claim that you’re a communist, nobody is gonna arrest you. But if you start carrying a gun and using violence as a pretext to initiating societal change, that’s a crime,” he said.
Gonzales said that if he were elected President, his administration will be open to dialogue with communist rebels. “As a government, we cannot close our doors to dialogue,” he said, adding “it is the obligation of government to keep listening.”
On the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), given the criticisms hurled against the task force, Gonzales said he will “definitely have it reviewed.”
“I will not say now that I will abolish it, that’s unfair but I will have it seriously reviewed. And you know where I stand.”
On enduring peace in Mindanao, Gonzales said the opinions of Mindanawons, Moro, Lumads (Indigenous Peoples) or settlers would definitely be respected.
He recalled that the issue in Mindanao “during our time is whether we will allow our conflict to become religious in kind. It’s going to be a lot bloodier if it becomes religious, that’s why I felt so bad that at a certain point in our recent past we kind of neglected one institution that is in Mindanao, this is the dialogue among the religious leaders of the Muslims and the religious leaders of our Christian communities.”
Gonzales was referring to the Bishops-Ulama Conference (BUC), a dialogue forum of Mindanao’s Catholic and Protestant bishops and the Muslims’ Ulama.
If he were elected President, he said, he would “ask our religious leaders of both sides whether they can go on with this or not because that was a very important mechanism that even got the interest of the Pope and the world as a model for discussing a kind of a peace in an area like similar to Mindanao when the possibility of a religious conflict can make things far more serious than it already is.”
The BUC is still existing although its meetings are no longer as frequent and regular as in the past.
Gonzales also said he wants the Lumads to “have their own position” and not just be lumped together in peace negotiations with communist and Moro rebels. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)