“Not only are the movers of this regime intent on spreading fake news on social media, but they are also hell-bent on discrediting people who expose the real situation on the ground.”
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – Rights and students groups have assailed the series of red-tagging and harassment incidents as a systematic attack against government critics in the guise of the purported “Red October” plot, which various groups have dismissed as a mere concoction of the Philippine military.
“Which institutions have the discretionary funds to use for these baseless accusations? Not only are the movers of this regime intent on spreading fake news on social media, but they are also hell-bent on discrediting people who expose the real situation on the ground. This is a systematic operation run by agencies and institutions which will benefit if the victims and people who help them are silenced,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said.
Ranking military officials claimed in media reports that the purported “Red October” plot aims to unseat President Rodrigo Duterte. The intelligence report allegedly came from laptops that were recovered from their anti-insurgency raid, and even a supposed recording of a conversation between leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and other political groups such as Magdalo and the Liberal Party.
CPP founding chairperson Jose Maria Sison has long dared Duterte to release to the public the recorded conversations to supposedly prove the conspiracy. But the military has yet to budge.
Such red-scare tactic, according to National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers president Edre Olalia, is an “old worn-out McCarthyhism,” where advocates are recklessly accused as communists without any shred of credible evidence.
All of these, he added, are “scapegoats for further draconian rule and repression of all forms of legitimate resistance against political persecution and economic hardships.”
Eighteen schools have been named as breeding grounds for those who will participate in the Red October plot.
In media interviews, Brigadier General Antonio Parlade Jr., deputy chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines said documentaries on the martial law years being shown in these universities and colleges portray Duterte as a dictator “to incite students to rebel against the government.”
The schools mentioned were Adamson University, Ateneo de Manila University, De La Salle University, Far Eastern University, University of the Philippines – Diliman and Manila, University of Santo Tomas, San Beda College, Lyceum of the Philippines University, Philippine Normal University, to name a few.
Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao said “this simply means that students are taking on their historical task to be agents of social change, especially by immersing with the basic masses, the workers, peasants, indigenous peoples, urban poor and others.”
“They are able to relate their concrete conditions as direct consequences of government programs and policies, thus, they join their struggle,” he added.
Red October, Casilao said, is a sham distraction to derail public attention from pressing economic issues and human rights abuses of the Duterte administration.
Bishops, church workers not spared
On Sept. 28, the walls of a chapel of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente in Tigbao, Zamboanga del Sur were painted with the markings of “IFI = NPA.”
Karapatan said another set of markings were found along the highway of Lacupayan, Tigbao, Zamboanga del Sur with the following texts: “UCCP = NPA,” “IFI=NPA,” and “Bishop Ablon = NPA,” referring to peace advocate and Karapatan-Western Mindanao chairperson Bishop Antonio Ablon.
UCCP stands for United Church of Christ in the Philippines.
The Rural Missionaries of the Philippines – Western Mindanao has also decried the same red-tagging incident.
In a Facebook post, Bishop Ablon said, “We stand our ground. We are united and firm in our conviction to continue the ministry that our Lord Jesus entrusted and commanded us to do to love our neighbor as ourselves as whatever we do to the least of our brethren we are also doing it to God.”
Systematic attacks vs. critics
Palabay said the red-tagging is a systematic attack against known government critics and progressives, most especially those who are demanding for justice for the victims of human rights violations under the Duterte administraton.
Karapatan, itself, is a victim of the series of red-tagging and harassment incidents. Duterte, himself, mentioned Karapatan no less than six times in his speeches in an attempt to red-tag the human rights organization, which did not totally surprise them and that his “minions are following suit, targeting us for our incessant work of exposing this regime’s crimes.”
On Sept. 29, banners were unfurled at several bridges in Balibago, Angeles, and Pampanga with the following text: “Karapatan, terrorist protector.” Karapatan also received threatening text messages from these numbers 09556810452 and 09557396541, accusing their members and leaders of being so-called legal front of the New People’s Army, and of being “huwad na makatao.”
“While Karapatan has been the subject of many such threats and harassments, we continue to emphasize how these endanger our human rights workers more, and justifies attacks against us,” Palabay added.
Palabay said Karapatan’s record in human rights advocacy work is available for public scrutiny and that they are proud of the efforts and commitment of many human rights workers on the ground, with many being harassed and even extrajudicially killed.
She said, “we have continued our work despite attacks from fascist regimes, and we will continue to tread on. Our affirmation will never come from the government, but from the victims and their relatives, the communities and the peoples whom we have had the honor to serve.”