Davao activists hail Supreme Court decision vs red-tagging

May. 13, 2024

DAVAO CITY, Philippines -The Supreme Court this week ruled that red-tagging – the act of labeling activists and others as communist members or sympathizers – is a threat to the person’s life, liberty and security, which justifies the issuance of a writ of amparo.

This decision comes in favor of the petition filed by former Bayan Muna Party-list Representative Siegfred Deduro, who was red-tagged as a member of the communist party by the military in Iloilo in 2020, and later posters were spread in the city vilifying him.  

The SC finds this as prima facie evidence that red-tagging, vilification, labeling and guilt by association is a threat to Deduro. 

Human rights advocates and groups hail the Supreme Court ruling, as they have long sought for legal remedies against red-tagging that ran rampant during the Duterte administration, resulting to harassment, arrests, abduction and deaths.

Activists from Davao, such as Gabriela Davao Chairperson Doctor Jean Lindo, also found hope as she had experienced red-tagging.

“This is a glimmer of hope. Too many lives have suffered because of the baseless terror tagging,” says Lindo.

Doctor and teacher red-tagged

“Doc Jean”, as she is called by peers, is a community health practitioner, an environmental advocate who opposed the city’s coal-fired power plant, and a critic of former President Rodrigo Duterte for his misogynist acts and statements against women.

During the pandemic, she and other local activists and advocates were tagged in a series of “wanted” posters spread in July and August 2020.  

The posters, which did not bear any signatories, branded the activists as “berdugo pumapatay ng tribu” (Killers of indigenous peoples) and “terrorist recruiter”.


READ: https://fresh.davaotoday.com/human-rights/bishop-doctor-tagged-in-new-anti-terror-smear-campaign-in-davao/

The posters were released at the time that a paralegal in Bacolod, Zara Alvarez, a target of red-tagging by the military, was shot dead.

Lindo later posted on her Facebook account that she might be attacked.

“This could be a prelude to murder or to harassment. To those whom I care about I want you to know I do care about you enough to fight and resist,” she posted.

READ; https://www.facebook.com/share/p/ADqSdpe8ZBqJwB9y/?mibextid=xfxF2i

Another local activist Pilar Barredo, union secretary of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers Davao, also suffered from anxiety after this incident.  Her husband died of cardiac arrest in 2021, which she said was caused by anxiety caused by this red-tagging.

Prior to this incident, Barredo led a local campaign in 2018 that petitioned the City Government of Davao to grant them a monthly allowance to augment their income, but their campaign ended when then Mayor Sara Duterte branded them as “terrorists and supporters of terror groups”.

READ:  https://davaotoday.com/human-rights/red-tagged-by-sara-duterte-a-davao-teachers-story

The red-tagging posters came at the time Congress passed the Anti-Terror Act which Duterte signed into law.  A record 37 petitions were filed at the Supreme Court questioning the law for threatening civil liberties. 

“The ATA is a legal form of political bigotry. It does not punish state terrorists. It designates dissenters as terrorists and made to suffer,” Lindo laments.

Duterte also created the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) in 2018, which became the instrument for the military and its spokesperson to lay baseless red-tagging all across the country, targeting activists, indigenous peoples, union workers, farmers, humanitarian workers and even journalists.

Rampant attacks

The consequence of red-tagging, the “rampant and unmitigated fabrication of lies in attempts to quell dissent, …have also driven the rampant and unmitigated attacks on individuals and organizations,” says Cristina Palabay, secretary general of the rights group Karapatan.

The labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno Southern Mindanao have reported that four union leaders, Paul John Dizon, Leoncio Rabaca, Carlo Olalo, and Melodina Gumanoy, were visited in their homes by NTF-ELCAC or military agents who intimidated them to “surrender” to authorities to “clear their name”.

A member of the transport group Transmision Piston, Ricardo Baron, also encountered the same modus early this week, just days after their transport strike.

READ: https://davaotoday.com/human-rights/on-labor-day-kmu-slam-red-tagging-of-union-leaders-in-davao/

Indigenous peoples’ leaders in Mindanao have also been red-tagged, which have led to arrests and coercion to appear in NTF-ELCAC activities.

Karapatan have raised these concerns to the United Nations Human Rights Council which pointed out that red-tagging “has muddied the space for debate, disagreement and for challenging state institutions and policies.”

Long awaited 

Following the SC decision, various groups now want government officials to take more steps to dismantle the red-tagging mechanisms set up by the past Duterte administration.

The Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in Mindanao said it is time to abolish the NTF-ELCAC, and the repeal of the Anti-Terror Act and the Terrorist Financing Law.  The Makabayan Coalition in Congress is urging fellow lawmakers to pass laws to criminalize red-tagging and protect human rights defenders.

Former Bayan Muna Representative and human rights lawyer Carlos Zarate, welcomed the decision like “awaited rain in a long drought season”.  He had previously filed amparo petitions in 2012 and 2018 after he and other advocates were red-tagged.

“This latest ruling apparently reverses the stand of the Supreme Court on the issue of red tagging and will now serve as a fair warning to rabid red-taggers,” he said. 

comments powered by Disqus