By ALYSSA MAE CLARIN
MANILA– In two separate resolutions, the Commission on Human Rights Cordillera Administrative Region (CHR-CAR) said that the labeling of the alternative news media outfit Northern Dispatch (Nordis) and its staff as communist front organizations constitutes human rights violation.
The resolutions, both issued on June 24, 2021, and received today by Nordis, stemmed from the complaints filed by the media outlet’s managing editor Sherwin De Vera and editor in chief Kimberlie Quitasol last March and June 2020, respectively.
“Whether it is perpetrated by the government or by third parties, it cannot be denied that red-tagging is a matter of serious concern that should not be taken lightly,” said CHR-CAR in its resolution.
Northern Dispatch and its staff has been continuously red-tagged since January of 2020 after the Baguio City Police tagged De Vera, who was covering a protest, as a “communist front organization personality” in its blotter activity.
Quitasol stated in their complaint that the incidents of red-tagging have steadily increased after Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr., in one of his public statements, linked Northern Dispatch and other alternative media news outfits to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
Parlade’s statement was then quoted and posted by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NFT-ELCAC) on their official Facebook page.
“There is no excuse for the State to commit any form of human rights violation against any of its citizens, including Human Rights Defenders. Thus, the red-tagging of Northern Dispatch as a creation of the CPP and its personnel as communist front personalities constitutes human rights violations,” the CHR added.
The Commission underscored that red-tagging poses grave threats to the lives, liberty and security of victims.
De Vera, for instance, was detained and arrested on charges of rebellion in 2017 and was released on bail. In 2018, his name was also included in the petition filed by the Department of Justice to declare the CPP as a terrorist organization. In his complaint, De Vera said the false accusations have caused him undue stress and have put his life and that of his family in danger.
In a statement, Nordis said that the findings of CHR-CAR are “a welcome development amid the unrelenting and vicious attacks against journalists and media institutions.”
Quitasol, however, noted that CHR falls short in exacting accountability from the perpetrators. She added that the Commission failed to note that red-tagging of journalists and media institutions “are attacks to freedom of the press and expression, and an affront to democracy.”
The red-tagging also intensified after Cordillera officials adopted the Cordillera Regional Law Enforcement Coordinating Committee’s (RLECC) Resolution No. 06-2021, otherwise known as the “Dumanun Makitungtung Strategy (visit and talk strategy)” last August 19. The repackaged strategy condones and institutionalizes the practice of labeling groups as communist front organizations.
In an earlier statement, CHR-CAR had already said that the resolution “destroys the remaining spaces for legitimate dissent and only sows division among the people.”