Former IBP Davao presidents, Mindanao lawyers slam government’s red-tagging tactic

Dec. 07, 2020

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Former presidents of the Davao City chapter of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) issued a statement criticizing the Duterte administration’s counter-insurgency has been reduced to red-tagging of activists, critics, and fellow lawyers.

The statement was signed by Atty. Ramon Edison Batacan (IBP Davao President 2001-03), Atty. Manuel Quibod (2007-09), Atty. Jonathan Jocom (2011-13), Atty. Jose Edgar Ilagan (2013-15), Atty. Caesar Europa (2015-17), and Atty. Socorro Ermac-Cabreros (2017-19).

“Ours is a government of laws and not of men,” their statement quoted United States’ second president John Adams, implying that government and military officials must apply due process rather than resort to red-tagging.

National defense leaders under the National Task Force to End Local Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) had gone on a public campaign in this pandemic time naming various organizations from party lists, lawyers, journalists, media, and even artists as fronts of the Communist Party.

Among those being red-tagged by the task force is Bayan Muna party list Representative Carlos Isagani Zarate, who is the House deputy minority floor leader and a former IBP Davao City President in 2003-05.

Zarate was recently singled out in an insult-laden speech by President Rodrigo Duterte in his weekly briefing on the COVID-19 pandemic last November 30, wherein he accused Zarate and his group the Makabayan bloc as being part of a “grand conspiracy” along with “legal front” organizations to allegedly overthrow the government.

The IBP presidents said these kinds of statements do not prove anything.

“When the government, particularly its enforcement arm, the police, and the military, makes public accusations that a person or a group of persons are rebels, or are conspiring with rebels towards an armed overthrow of the government, it does not make it true,” their statement said.

“What will make it true, if they really have tangible evidence to prove these allegations, is for the police or military to file cases against these people or groups so that our courts can look into it and punish those who are guilty and clear those who are not,” they said.

The lawyers said making such “derisive” accusations “will never result to getting any justice.”

Another lawyers’ group, the Union of People’s Lawyers in Mindanao (UPLM) also criticized the government’s red-tagging of lawyers.

“A threat on Zarate is a grave threat on all legislators who are fulfilling their mandate and on all human rights defenders who remain true to their lawyers’ oath. These threats are glaring violations of rights under our Philippine Constitution and the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” the UPLM statement said.

The group is concerned with the red-tagging, as other human rights lawyers including Benjamin Ramos in Negros and Anthony Trinidad were killed after being tagged in the same manner.

A newly formed citizen’s action group, Alisto! (Alert) Network, also raised concern that red-tagging means open season to attack anyone.

“If a sitting member of the House of Representatives can be can be treated poorly in public, how much more for ordinary citizens, particularly those who do not have access to the means of defending themselves? Many Mindanao farmers, workers, indigenous peoples, and Bangsamoro have found themselves in such a situation, where they are unfairly charged and their rights and safety put at risk,” the network’s spokesperson Atty. Romeo Cabarde said in an interview with Mindanews. (

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