Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo (File photo)

MANILA – Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo on Wednesday said he saw nothing wrong with the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) memorandum that directs its regional directors to identify members of progressive groups in the government.

DILG spokesperson Jonathan Malaya earlier defended the memo, explaining that employees in the department who are members of progressive organizations will only be encouraged to “disaffiliate” themselves from those groups.

In his online commentary show “Counterpoint”, Panelo emphasized that the DILG was simply doing its job by checking government employees’ affiliations.

“Hindi mali o hindi masama ang ginagawa ng DILG. Katunayan ‘yun ang tungkulin niyo, alamin niyo kung sino yung mga manggagawa, empleyado ng gobyerno na lihim na sinisira ang pagtitiwala ng bayan sa pamahalaan sa pamamagitan ng pagpasok nila dun sa mga organisasyon na ang layunin lamang ay siraan at pabagsakin ang gobyerno (The DILG is not doing anything wrong or bad. The truth is, it’s their job to find out if employees are secretly destroying public trust in the government by joining organizations to overthrow the government),” he said.

He reminded government workers that they have sworn to uphold the 1987 Constitution in joining the government.

“Yung mga empleyado ng gobyerno, bago kayo pumasok na ipagtatanggol niyo ang Saligang Batas. Eh kung yung mga organisasyon na papasukan niyo e ang layunin ay pabagsakin ang gobyerno ay dapat talaga malaman na kung sino kayo (Employees of government have taken an oath that before you enter government, you will defend the Constitution. If you enter into organizations with the goal of overthrowing the government, then it’s only right that we identify who you are),” he added.

Panelo said government workers should refrain from joining progressive groups if they do not want to be investigated.

“Kung gusto niyo hindi maimbestigahan e huwag kayo sasama dito sa mga organisasyon na ang layunin ay pabagsakin ang gobyerno. Ganun lang naman kasimple ‘yun (If you don’t want to be investigated, don’t join organizations that aim to overthrow the government. It’s that simple),” he said.

He rejected criticism that the DILG’s memo sends a “chilling effect” on freedom of expression, noting that only those with a plot to discredit the administration should be afraid.

“Matatakot lang kayo kung totoo na kayo ay kasama dun sa mga organisasyon na ang layunin ay pabagsakin ang gobyerno (You should only get scared if you are a member of organizations that seek to overthrow the government). Otherwise, there is nothing to fear,” he added.

On March 10, the DILG issued a memorandum directing its regional directors to identify who among its employees are members of two progressive groups--the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (Courage), a network of workers’ unions in the government; and Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), the union of public school teachers.

Bayan Muna Rep. Ferdinand Gaite denounced the memorandum, describing it as “blatant terrorist-tagging” and “an unwarranted act of harassment and intimidation.” (PNA)