“While a law penalizing red-tagging is welcome, the draconian Anti-Terrorism Act violates our basic human rights, including the right to a free press.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Several groups welcomed the proposed measure filed by Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon that defines and penalizes red-tagging.
In a statement, Drilon said Senate Bill 2121 or the “Act Defining and Penalizing Red-Tagging” seeks to criminalize red-tagging and provide for penalties as deterrence “in order to fix the legal gaps, address impunity and institutionalize a system of accountability.”
When passed into law, the bill would punish those found guilty of such acts with ten years imprisonment and perpetual absolute disqualification to hold public office.
The bill defines the crime of red-tagging as “the act of labeling, vilifying, branding, naming, accusing, harassing, persecuting, stereotyping, or caricaturing individuals, groups, or organizations as state enemies, left-leaning, subversives, communists, or terrorists as part of a counter-insurgency or anti-terrorism strategy or program, by any state actor, such as law enforcement agent, paramilitary, or military personnel.”
“The passage of this bill will reverse the ‘increasingly institutionalization and normalization of human rights violations’ and put a stop on the attacks against the members of the legal profession,” the bill’s explanatory note read.
National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) President Edre Olalia in a statement said the Senate Bill is most welcome and hopes that the House of Representatives will have its own counterpart version.
“When passed into law, it will most probably deter the unscrupulous hate speech by State forces against their own citizens and also make more effective and concrete the legal remedies against these dangerous vilification of practically everybody the ‘wayward elements’ victimize,” Olalia said.
Kabataan Party-list Rep. Sarah Elago said that red-tagging has led to the death of many activists and it is high time to demand accountability.
Elago lamented that the likes of Maj. Gen. Benedict Arevalo and Maj. Gen. Alex Luna were reinstated.
Arevalo and Luna were earlier sacked by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana for issuing an erroneous list of UP students, both dead and alive, who allegedly joined the New People’s Army. Just recently, Lorenzana reinstated Luna as Armed Forces of the Philippines’ deputy chief of staff for intelligence and Arevalo as deputy chief of staff for civil military operations.
Karapatan, meanwhile, proposed that the measure include provisions for courts to issue automatic protection orders for individuals who are red-tagged.
“Such rhetoric gravely threatens people’s lives, liberty, and security — such that it is effectively a death sentence, or a prelude to extrajudicial killings or other violations of civil and political rights,” said Karapatan’s secretary general Cristina Palabay.
Karapatan and NUPL previously asked the courts for protection as their members were constantly red-tagged by state forces. But both petitions for writ of Amparo and habeas data were junked by the Court of Appeals.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) also welcomed the Senate Bill.
“Although the 1987 Constitution guarantees freedom of expression, this does not give state offices and agents free license to label activists, rights workers, labor organizers and journalists as enemies of the state and terrorists. The government is the primary duty bearer in upholding human rights,” said Jonathan de Santos, NUJP’s chairperson-elect said in a statement.
He added that such dangerous accusations, when done by state agents as part of a so-called counter-insurgency program, “are no longer private opinions and conspiracy theories but official actions and policy.”
De Santos cited the arrest and detention of Manila Today editor Lady Ann Salem, also NUJP’s director, who was also red-tagged during the Senate hearing on red-tagging last year.
“Red-tagging has often led to harassment and violence against its targets and NUJP welcomes moves that will protect journalists from these threats and hold those making them to account,” the newly-elected NUJP chairperson said.
The group also reiterated its opposition to the Anti-Terrorism Act, which “makes terror tagging even more dangerous, and has dire implications on the performance of our duty.”
“While a law penalizing red-tagging is welcome, the draconian Anti-Terrorism Act violates our basic human rights, including the right to a free press,” De Santos said.
Meanwhile, Palabay urged the Senate and the Lower House to pass the Human Rights Defenders Protection Bill to “comprehensively address and combat red-tagging.”
Palabay cited the report of United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders Mary Lawlor which states that red-tagging is a threat to human rights defenders in the country.”