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Saturday, May 18, 2024

Gagging red-tagging

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Now that the Supreme Court has spoken, perhaps those who have been engaged in ‘red-tagging,’ or the act of branding political activists and critics of government as “communists” or even “terrorists,” would now think twice about continuing what they have been doing.

What the Supreme Court en banc has said in its 39-page ruling made public on May 8 is that red-tagging is a threat to the life, liberty and security of the intended victims.

In the ruling penned by Associate Justice Rodil Zalameda, the High Tribunal said red-tagging, as well as “vilification, labeling, and guilt by association,” could warrant the issuance of a writ of amparo to protect victims’ rights from aggressors.

The court pointed out that inherent in the practice of red-tagging was the “use of threats and intimidation” to discourage what could be deemed “subversive” activities.

“Whether such threats ripen into actual abduction or killing of supposed ‘Reds’ is largely uncertain,” the Supreme Court said. But being branded a communist or terrorist could make a red-tagged individual a target of vigilantes, paramilitary groups, or even state agents, it said.

In defining the concept of Red-tagging for the first time, the Supreme Court cited the United Nations Human Rights Council’s observation the practice had become prevalent in the Philippines, where progressive groups were identified as “front organizations of anti-democratic groups.”

Understandably, the Supreme Court ruling has been welcomed by activist groups and human rights organizations as an important piece of jurisprudence that could serve as the basis for future decisions involving persons unfairly tagged by state authorities as members of alleged communist groups.

The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers said the Supreme Court’s “long overdue” decision was crucial as it “categorically and unequivocally” stated that red-tagging was a threat.

“It is not a mere legally meritorious victory nor a vindication and potential shield of human rights defenders and a tribute to those fallen and already victimized by it, but a strong slap on self-righteous red-taggers before and now,” the NUPL said.

But will the Supreme Court ruling really stop the practice of red-tagging by those in government, including the military, police and other security agencies now engaged in counter-insurgency campaigns who have vowed to put an end to the armed rebellion by the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army?

Perhaps the Supreme Court should clarify whether its ruling covers those in the AFP, PNP, NICA and other security agencies, as well as the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict or NTF-Elcac?

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