With rampant reports emerging of “red-tagging” of human rights groups and civil society organizations and individuals, the Commission on Human Rights called on the government on Friday to address the needs of Filipinos affected by the coronavirus pandemic instead of labelling people and organizations of being left-leaning or communists.
“Just as the government calls on everyone, including communist rebels, to help in addressing the pandemic, we expect that they too can focus on addressing the needs of many, especially the poor and vulnerable, instead of mischaracterizing organizations and individuals who have also helped communities and are within the ambit of exercising their rights,” Jacqueline De Guia, spokesperson for the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said.
The commission said it has received reports of red-tagging of the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates and the Union of Journalists of the Philippines, a student organization in the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication.
Former National Union of Journalists of the Philippines chair Rowena “Weng” Carranza-Paraan and Cordillera Peoples Alliance chairperson Windel Bolinget were also red-tagged.
Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment also reported that its front gate was “defaced with red-tagging posters targeting progressive parties and social movements that Kalikasan PNE has worked with.”
CHR stressed that red-tagging may trigger human rights violations such as harassment, unlawful arrests, torture and threats to life.
“We wish to remind the government that expressions of dissent and the freedom to speak on legitimate concerns without fear of reprisal are guaranteed rights by the 1987 Constitution as a feature of a democratic country,” De Guia said.
She added that the repeal of the Cold War-era anti-subversion law in 1992 meant that being a member of the Communist Party of the Philippines is no longer a crime.
“The challenge before those who accuse is to prove allegations of any illegal act before fair and competent courts. Otherwise, peddling unfounded accusations is a practice of sowing disinformation, which should not be condoned,” De Guia said.