MANILA – Supreme Court justices questioned government lawyers on the practice of red-tagging during the oral arguments on the Anti-Terror Act of 2020 on May 11.
Red-tagging is among the issues raised by petitioners opposing the law. They asserted that red-tagging results in more serious human rights violations, even death for activists.
Because of this, the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) and human rights group Karapatan filed separate writs of amparo and habeas data with the SC, which later on were dismissed by the Court of Appeals without even hearing the testimonies of witnesses.
The NUPL has also repeatedly sought the intervention of the SC to act on the rising cases of killings of lawyers and judges.
The NUPL has gathered data on the attacks against judges, lawyers and law students from the administration of dictator Ferdinand Marcos to Duterte. Data show that it was during the nine-year term of Arroyo administration that attacks against lawyers were the most rampant.
Also based on this data from the NUPL, the most common forms of attack against lawyers, judges and law students from 1984 to April 2021 are threats, harassment, intimidation and surveillance.
It also revealed that the red-tagging of lawyers and judges under the present administration has led to the killing of more lawyers and judges at 54 compared to that during the term of Arroyo where 45 lawyers and judges were killed in the line of work.
For one, Felidito Dacut, lawyer and regional coordinator of Bayan Muna-Eastern Visayas, was killed two weeks after then Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan, then 8th Infantry Division chief, vowed to “eliminate insurgency in Eastern Visayas in six months.”
Among the cases he handled were labor disputes and human rights violations.
Fast forward to Nov. 6, 2018, human rights lawyer Benjamin Ramos was killed in Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental. Before the killing, Ramos was accused of being a member of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army (CPP-NPA). He also handled human rights violations cases. Before his death, he was handling the case of the Mabinay 6.
Less than a year later, on July 23, 2019 another human rights lawyer, Anthony Trinidad was killed. Prior to his killing, his name was reportedly included in a hit list allegedly by an anti-communist group called Kawsa Guihulnganon Batok Komunista (Kagubak). He was also tagged as supporter of the communist group.
Last month, the SC condemned the attacks on lawyers and judges and lined up courses of action to prevent attacks against officers of court.
Graphics by Dawn Cecilia Peña
Text by Anne Marxze D. Umil