Despite court protection, Deduro still fears for life ‘amidst impunity’

The petitioner for the writ of amparo granted by the Supreme Court (SC) revealed he still fears for his life despite the protection order given him by the high tribunal.

Former Bayan Muna Representative Siegfred Deduro told Kodao that he remains wary “amidst the continuing impunity in extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances, and illegal arrests and detention on trumped up charges in our country.”

In the a decision Wednesday, May 8, the tribunal ruled that the red-tagging, vilification, labelling, and guilt by association constitute threats to a person’s right to life, liberty, or security, thus justifying its granting of protection to Deduro.

The SC defines the writ of amparo as “a remedy available to any person whose right to life, liberty, or security is violated or threatened by an unlawful act or omission of a public official or employee, or of a private individual or entity.”

In his petition, Deduro said the 3rd Infantry Division of the Philippine Army threatened his life by identifying him as a ranking member of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army, a prevalent practice dubbed as red-tagging.

Red-tagging as well as vilification, labeling, and guilt by association often leads to arbitrary arrests, trumped-up charges and assassinations.

Nonetheless, Deduro said he is glad that the SC decided in his favor despite a regional trial court’s earlier dismissal of the same petition.

“This clearly refutes the National Task Force on Ending Local Communist Armed Conflict’s assertion that their rampage of red-tagging of activists is a benign exercise of ‘truth- tagging,’” Deduro said.

“I hope that this landmark SC ruling will benefit thousands of other activists and political dissenters like me who are victims of political persecution and red-tagging,” the former legislator added.

Meanwhile, more groups hailed the SC’s decision, including its definition of red-tagging.

Welcome development

The Cordillera Peoples’ Alliance (CPA), the most red-tagged organization across the Cordillera region, welcomed the ruling, saying they hope the country’s justice system will start junking the many trumped-up charges against activists and peoples’ organizations.

The group pointed out that four of its leaders are facing terrorism charges and have exhausted all legal remedies to rid of the designation.

“[B]ut we hope that the current SC ruling on red tagging will once again make justice within the peoples’ reach,” the CPA said.

Public sector unionists also welcomed SC’s ruling, saying it hopes the courts will now grant more writs of amparo to victims of red tagging and other forms of vilification.

The Confederation for the Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE) called for the end of red tagging and vilification campaigns against unionists it said “are mostly initiated by elements of the state armed forces.”

COURAGE also urged President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. to enact policies guaranteeing the right to self-organize, to collectively bargain and negotiate, and to peaceful concerted action including the right to strike of public sector unionists. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)