CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines — The Catholic archbishop here, along with lawyers and journalists, are willing to take to the streets to express their indignation over the red-tagging among their colleagues.
In the past few months, propaganda flyers and tarpaulins spread over the city implicated journalists, church people and lawyers as supporters or leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines and New People’s Army.
Journalists and lawyers said a protest action is possible in the coming weeks, to draw public support on the dangers of red-tagging that has endangered their work and their lives.
Archbishop Antonio Ledesma, in an earlier interview, said he will support any mass action that will condemn these attacks.
“We will support that (protest action) as this also involves the reputation of people, as many of them are advocates for good governance and human rights promotion,” Ledesma said.
He said those responsible for the labeling of groups and individuals as Communists or terrorists are “endangering the lives of people that are subject of this red-tagging” adding that everyone should be presumed innocent and should not be wrongfully accused “until there is evidence against him or her.”
Lawyer Beverly Musni of the Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in Mindanao (UPLM) said labeling journalists, church people and other critics of government as communists has repercussions on human rights, and brings a chilling effect to the public to voice out their opinion.
Musni slammed the red-bait attacks made on her that she is an NPA leader. Her daughter Czarina, also an activist lawyer, is also red-tagged for her support of Lumad schools in Buikdnon.
“If they label me that I am an NPA fighter, that means I have now lost my civilian status and my protection as such, and will now be targeted as combatant,” she said.
Veteran journalists Froilan Gallardo of Mindanews and Vicente ‘Cong’ Corrales of GoldStar Daily were also tagged as NPA leaders. Corrales was even accused of rape and a P1 million bounty is put on him in the flyer.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) CdO chapter also called out fellow journalists to be involved to ensure media people can exercise their duty to public service without intimidation.
“Everyone must be involved,” said NUJP CdO chair Pamela Joy Orias.
Musni said UPLM is ready to join these protests.
“For all the civilians under attack by vicious red-tagging, and so that there will be no more civilian to suffer its chilling effect, I will join any march organized to put an end to red-tagging. Whenever it is called by whomsoever, anytime, UPLM will be there,” the lady lawyer said.
UPLM and other church leaders filed a petition to the LGU to make the city “red-tag-free” by penalizing groups who are staging these attacks.
No particular group has been identified behind the red-tag. The Philippine Army’s 4th Infantry Division denied in a dialogue with NUJP that they are engaging in red-tagging.
The City Council has formed a technical working group to research and draft an ordinance to protect people from the red-tag. (davaotoday.com)