AFP’s red-tagging activities in HS campuses must stop—CHR, Kabataan Party

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) expressed “deep concern” over recent red-tagging activities by the military and government institutions addressed at high school students in Rizal Province.

In a statement, the country’s national human rights institution said it is alarmed by a report that the 80th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army and the Department of Education organized a seminar last May 22 at Taytay and Cainta senior high schools where red-tagging pamphlets were distributed to the students.

The students and their parents were forced to attend without prior notice, in accordance with Provincial Resolution No. 3 series of 2023, the CHR said.

CHR said screenshots of the pamphlets were shared with the media, saying that recruiters of the Communist Party of the Philippines – New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) “could be found at protests,” and are “teaching people to despise government.”

“The Commission reiterates that protests and the right to peacefully dissent are fundamental human rights that the State must recognize. Article III, Section 4 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution states that ‘no law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances,’” it said.

CHR added that participating in protest and dissent are forms of public expression used to voice grievances, not to identify themselves as part of an insurgency or communist armed rebellion.

“Regardless of political orientation and ideology, participating in a protest is an exercise of fundamental human rights, allowing individuals to express their concerns and demand change,” the Commission said.

Kabataan Party last May 25 issued an alert on the incident, saying the pamphlets “insinuate that any form of opposition to government, especially joining protests, is terrorism.”

Kabataan Party’s red-tagging alert issued last May 25.

Information program?

The CHR said the National Security Council (NSC) has replied to the report and refuted the allegations.

The NSC reportedly stated the pamphlets were only for “informing students about indicators that they are being recruited by communist rebel group organizers,” as part of “community information programs to protect vulnerable sectors from terrorist recruitment and exploitation.”

The CHR however said it is essential that such efforts do not stigmatize legitimate expressions of dissent.

“While the CHR is one with the State in preserving and protecting the country’s peace and security through the adoption of policies countering the threats of terrorism and underground armed rebellion, we believe that it is still essential to raise awareness about the potential dangers of arbitrary labeling,” the Commission explained.

The CHR noted that the Supreme Court (SC) itself declared the act of red-tagging as a “threat to life, liberty and security” as it arbitrarily connects individuals and organizations to the underground armed movement.

“This act [red-tagging] often results in surveillance, enforced disappearances, and even extrajudicial killings, as individuals and groups become targets for violence and harassment perpetrated by various forces,” the Commission said.

“[W]e urge everyone, particularly our security forces and duty-bearers, to refrain from disseminating misconstrued information that could hinder the freedom to protest or compromise the safety of individuals exercising their democratic rights,” it added.

A Philippine Army soldier in combat uniform distributing pamphlets to Rizal senior high school students. (Philippine Army photo)

‘Cha-cha opposition is not terrorism’

Kabataan Party Rep. Raoul Manuel said the Rizal incident belies President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s claims his government does not engage in red-tagging.

“Filipinos who disagree with the pro-foreign interest and selfish charter change (cha-cha) initiatives are arbitrarily regarded as terrorists by Marcos Jr.’s military. Funds are being wasted in these red-tagging and terror-tagging seminars and pamphlets,” Manuel said.

Manuel added that the AFP, the National Task Force to Eliminate Local Communist Armed Conflict and Marcos Jr. want the youth to blindly follow their “anti-people policies.”

“They want to ruin the youth’s ability to ask questions and to think critically. Such disinformation and red-tagging drives poisons the mind and endangers their lives,” the legislator added.

In line with the SC decision on red-tagging, Manuel said they are studying options to have the incident investigation and make those responsible accountable. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Karapatan outraged at Marcos’ refusal to abolish NTF-ELCAC; Cebu unionists reveal rampant gov’t red-tagging

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. refused to abolish government’s anti-insurgency task force and human rights and labor groups are outraged.

Human rights group Karapatan assailed Marcos’s decision, saying the president’s declaration that the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) does not engage is red-tagging is “rank hypocrisy and denialism.”

“No matter how much he tries, however, Marcos Jr. cannot wash his hands of responsibility for the escalating violations of human rights and international humanitarian law consequent to the NTF-ELCAC’s red-tagging mania,” Karapatan said in a statement.

As commander-in-chief, Marcos Jr. chairs the NTF-ELCAC and approves the counter-insurgency doctrines that drive the agency’s frenzied red- and terror-tagging, the group said.

Marcos told reporters in a Cagayan de Oro ambush interview Thursday there are no plans to abolish the task force accused of being a notorious red-tagger, even as the Supreme Court described the practice as a danger to life, security and liberty of victims.

“Bakit lagi niyong tinatanong sa akin iyan? Wala namang dahilan kung bakit natin tatanggalin iyan,” Marcos quipped. (Why do you always ask me that? There’s no reason for us to abolish it.)

Marcos denied that the NTF-ELCAC as well as the government in general engages in red-tagging.

Karapatan however pointed out that United Nations Special Rapporteurs (UNSR) who conducted official visits in the Philippines have recommended the abolition of the NTF-ELCAC because of its red-tagging practices.

 UNSR on Freedom of Expression and Opinion Irene Khan and UNSR on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in the Context of Climate Change Ian Fry made the recommendations last February and November, respectively.

“Marcos Jr. can deny the truth all he can. But the Filipino people and the world see through his lies and his hypocrisy,” Karapatan said.

Red-tagged unionists, development workers charged

In Cebu, Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) chapter Alyansa sa mga Mamumuo sa Sugbo (AMA Sugbo) condemned the filing of antiterrorism-related charges against labor leaders and development workers it said are victims of government’s red-tagging drive.

In a press conference Wednesday, AMA Sugbo said the continuous effort of the Department of Justice’s Terror Task Force, in connivance with the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Central Command, “defies the rule of logic” in alleging the respondents transmit funds to underground revolutionary groups such as the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

For one, the charges include AMA Sugbo chairperson Jaime Paglinawan Sr. who is not an officer nor a staff member of Community Empowerment Resource Network (CERNET) named as the main respondent of the alleged Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act of 2012 (RA 10168) violation charges, the labor group said.

AMA Sugbo said that prior to the filing of charges, Paglinawan was one of those arrested without a warrant at the gate of the University of the Philippines-Cebu for protesting the passage of the repressive Anti-Terrorism Act on June 5, 2020.

Days ago, several posters red-tagging AMA-SUGBO-KMU, Anakbayan, and Bayan Central Visayas have been seen around CICC and UP Cebu Campus, the group also revealed.

Last May 1, International Labor Day, Police Reqional Office-7 distributed red-tagging materials to rally-goers, it added.

AMA Sugbo said the “relentless attacks on Paglinawan and other development workers…are anti-poor and anti-people.”

“AMA-SUGBO-KMU…dares the Philippine government to focus on what is truly needed by the people right now, and this is to allocate the budget for the basic services necessary for everyone, instead of attacking NGOs and progressive leaders who are truly serving the needs of its people,” it said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Rights defenders: Time to abolish NTF-ELCAC after SC ruling on red-tagging

Progressive groups pressed their demand for the abolition of the government’s anti-insurgency agency following the Supreme Court’s (SC) ruling defining the practice of red-tagging as a threat to a victim’s life, liberty and security.

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) and Karapatan said it is time for President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to abolish the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) as government’s most notorious red-tagger.

Speaking as a target and victim of NTF-ELCAC’s “malicious and unrelenting red-tagging,” BAYAN chairperson emerita Dr. Carol Araullo said she welcomes the SC’s “clear, unequivocal legal and morally binding ruling” on the practice.

“Finally there is no hiding behind the deceptive defense that no law exists defining and proscribing the evil practice as a means by notorious red-taggers using official and other platforms to evade responsibility for their acts,” Araullo said.

“It should also provide a warning to their unthinking followers, especially on social media, who parrot their line and contribute to what amounts to the public lynching of their targets,” she added.

In a ruling released last May 8, the high court said it grants the petition of former Bayan Muna Representative Siegfred Deduro for a writ of amparo based on being repeatedly red-tagged by the 3rd Infantry Division of the Philippine Army and other suspected government agents.

READ: Red-tagging threatens a person’s right to life, SC declares

Araullo for her part has filed a Php2 million damage suit last July against former NTF-ELCAC spokesperson Dr. Lorraine Badoy-Partosa at the Office of the Ombudsman for her “incessant and wanton red-tagging.”

BAYAN chairperson emerita Dr. Carol Araullo at the filing of her complaint at the Office of the Ombudsman last July 2023. (Altermidya photo)

The veteran activist describes NTF-ELCAC as a “malevolent creation by the (Rodrigo) Duterte administration and retained by the Marcos Jr.”

Araullo said she calls on as many of those who have been maligned by the task force as “communist-terrorists” and have suffered its negative effects on their safety, health, well being and ability to continue unhampered in their work as social activists and human rights defenders, to file the appropriate charges against the most notorious red-taggers as a form of legal push back.

“I also demand accountability from the top officials of the NTF-ELCAC. This ruling should lead to the abolition of this (NTF-ELCAC) abomination,” she said.

‘Important decision’

Human rights group Karapatan also welcomed SC’s “important decision,” particularly the high court’s citation on the dangers of red-tagging.

“We strongly demand justice for all victims of red-tagging and all human rights and international humanitarian violations. We denounce and call for the abolition of the NTF-ELCAC, as the most notorious red-tagging machinery of the Marcos-Duterte administrations,” the group said in a statement.

Karapatan said the Marcos administration has continued the Duterte regime’s policy on red-tagging since its own National Security Policy, implemented by the NTF-ELCAC, “contains language institutionalizing red-tagging as policy of the current regime.”

“These dangerous practices of State security forces have long threatened the lives, security and liberty of scores of human rights activists, political dissenters and ordinary Filipinos – many of them have been victims of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture, illegal or arbitrary arrests and detention and many other forms of grave human rights violations, including Karapatan human rights workers,” the group explained.

The group also accuses the NTF-ELCAC and its functionaries of repeatedly blocking all efforts to push for the enactment of proposed legislation criminalizing red-tagging and protecting human rights defenders.

READ: CHR tells world of red-tagging, misuse of counter-terror measures

Karapatan also pointed out that numerous United Nations human rights mechanisms – from UN Special Rapporteurs Philip Alston, Agnes Callamard, Michel Forst, Mary Lawlor, Clement Voule, Ian Fry, Irene Khan and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet – have independently observed and recommended that red tagging should stop.

“But the hubris of Marcos Jr. and Duterte’s security forces, especially led by (NTF-ELCAC), have facilitated not only (its) rampant and unmitigated fabrication of lies in attempts to quell dissent, but have also driven the rampant and unmitigated attacks on individuals and organizations,” Karapatan said.

‘Game changer’

Meanwhile, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines’ humanitarian arm Caritas Philippines called the SC ruling a “game changer” for Filipino human rights defenders.

“This decision is a victory for justice and a crucial step for a safer Philippines. Red-tagging has instilled fear and silenced dissent for far too long. The Supreme Court’s ruling sends a clear message that such tactics will not be tolerated,” Caritas Philippines President Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo said last Thursday.

Caritas Philippines Vice President Bishop Gerardo Alminaza, himself a red-tagging target, said the ruling is a vindication for victims like him.

READ: More than a tale of two bishops

“Red-tagging creates a climate of fear and intimidation. In my own diocese of San Carlos, I’ve seen how it can discourage people from speaking out on issues affecting the marginalized,” Alminaza said

“The Court’s decision is a vital step towards protecting Filipinos who advocate for peace and justice,” the prelate added.

“This ruling offers a glimmer of hope and a chance for healing. We urge those who have been red-tagged to seek support and know that they are not alone,” he said.

Caritas Philippines urged the government and the military to uphold the Supreme Court’s decision and ensure the safety of all Filipinos, regardless of their political beliefs,” Bishop Bagaforo concluded. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Rights defenders at UN press calls for NTF-ELCAC abolition, junking of anti-terror act

GENEVA, Switzerland—The Philippine UPR Watch again called for the abolition of the National Task Force To End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) and the junking of the controversial Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 in its ongoing participation at the 55th Regular Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UN HRC) in this city.

A delegation of the group informed various permanent missions of member states and international civil society organizations based in Geneva last Monday and Tuesday of the results of two recent visits of UN special rapporteurs who denounced government’s red-tagging practices.

The group said they it is attending the session to testify on continuing human rights violations under the Ferdinand Marcos Jr. government.

“We are here to inform the international community that the findings by both special rapporteur on climate change and human rights Ian Fry last November and special rapporteur on freedom of expression and opinion Irene Khan last February that human rights violations continue are true,” Center for Environmental Concerns executive director Lia Mai Torres said.

Philippine UPR Watch said the rest of UN member states must be informed that both experts recommended the abolition of the NTF-ELCAC and called for the review of the anti-terror law that are being used against human rights defenders and other civilians.

A network of human rights defenders in the Philippines, the Philippine UPR Watch said it is scheduled to deliver oral interventions at the UNHRC session and its other events to give updates on the government’s lack of compliance to its commitments to the international body 20 months after the last review on the Philippines.

 “The Marcos Jr. government wants to paint a rosy picture of so-called improved rhetoric and improved conditions but we are here both as victims and witnesses that anti-people policies have not changed as evidenced by the exit statements by Mr. Fry and Ms. Khan,” Torres added.

Clergywoman as victim of weaponized law

Among the main topics in the 55th UN HRC session are discussions on countering religious hatred and social security and public services.

With the Philippine UPR Watch delegation is Rev. Glofie Baluntong of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines who was among the first charged by the government under the controversial Anti-Terror Law of 2020.

Based on an earlier murder charge in August 2021, Baluntong was slapped with an alleged violation of the Anti-Terror Act in August 2022 which was recently dismissed by the public prosecutor for lack of merit.

“But the dismissal came with the warning that the case may be re-filed anytime that the military or the police decides to do so,” the clergyperson said.

The United Methodist Church pastor was charged by the military of assisting the New People’s Army.

But the pastor said she was performing necrological services to a member of her church at the time she committed the alleged murder she was initially charged with.

“The government is saying that my work with the indigenous people’s communities make me an enemy of the state,” Baluntong said.

Baluntong said that red-tagging attacks and trumped-up charges prevent her from performing her ministry with the indigenous peoples and poor communities in her home province of Mindoro.

With Baluntong and Torres is IBON Foundation executive director Sonny Africa who said that his participation in the 55th session is in preparation for the anticipated official visit of the UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty.

Africa is also expected to participate in the panel discussion on challenges and good practices to realize the right to social security and to provide quality public services.

Delegation co-leader and Karapatan legal counsel Ma. Sol Taule  said, “This delegation supports suggestions made by the UN experts who recently visited the Philippines to continue our engagements leading to the submission of their respective final reports to the UN HRC.”

The Philippine UPR Watch delegation is also scheduled to speak at forums in various cities in Switzerland and throughout Europe during the duration of the UN HRC session. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

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[DISCLOSURE] The reporter is a member of the PH UPR Watch delegation as chairperson of the People’s Alternative Media Network that also spoke with UN special rapporteur on freedom of expression and opinion Irene Khan in her visit to the Philippines earlier this year.

The NTF-ELCAC should be abolished

“Third, the NTF-ELCAC was established by the previous administration six years ago for a different context. It does not take into account ongoing prospects for peace negotiations. I therefore recommend that the Task Force be abolished.” —UN Special Rapporteur Irene Khan (February 2, 2024)

(Image by Jo Maois Mamangun)


IRENE KHAN: Red-tagging remains common under Marcos

“The practice is not new. State forces have practiced it for decades and was intensified, online and offline, under the presidency of Rodrigo Duterte, especially with the creation of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC). It has been reported by the National Human Rights Commission and by several reputable international organizations, including OHCHR in 2020 and 2022 and the ILO High Level Mission last year….While the practice was particularly rampant under the previous administration, it remains common also in this administration, though at a lower level.” —UN Special Rapporteur Irene Khan (February 2, 2024)

(Image by Jo Maois Mamangun)


The NTF-ELCAC as culprit in red-tagging

“A wide range of human rights defenders, humanitarian workers, journalists, community media workers, students, artists, writers, trade unionists, teachers, youth, priests, health workers, and indigenous leaders claim to have been or are being targeted – in effect, these are people who are strongly and openly critical of government policies, who are activists, or who hold progressive views…Many have pointed their fingers at the state agency, the NTF-ELCAC either as the culprit or the instigator, but also to the military, state security officials, senior government officials, and some media outlets.”—UN Special Rapporteur Irene Khan (February 2, 2024)

(Image by Jo Maois Mamangun)

Activist leader files suit vs red-tagging duo Celiz-Badoy

Veteran activist and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan’s (BAYAN) chairperson Teddy Casiño filed a civil suit against his “most vicious red-taggers” Lorraine Badoy-Partosa and Jeffery Celiz at the Makati Prosecutor’s Office last Monday, December 18.

In a statement, Casiño said his legal action had been long overdue as the respondents had been “falsely, maliciously, and repeatedly” accused him of being involved in terrorism, rebellion and other crimes as a supposed high ranking official of the Communist Party of the Philippines, the New People’s Army and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

“They have been constantly spewing lies, aspersions, inciting ridicule and hate against me, my family, my fellow activists and our legitimate political beliefs and activities,” Casiño said.

Casiño’s filing came a few days after both Badoy-Partosa and Celiz were released from the House of Representatives detention facility where they have been held for a week for contempt.

After admitting they were wrong in their accusation that House Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez had more than a billion pesos in foreign travel funds and apologizing to legislators, the two were freed on humanitarian grounds last December 16.

Their controversial show on Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI) was also ordered suspended for 14 days starting December 14 by the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) for “death threats, profane language, and unverified news content.”

Casiño said the hearings conducted on SMNI’s alleged violations of its franchise showed how the respondents lie and falsely accuse victims of their red-tagging spree.

BAYAN chairperson Teddy Casiño after filing his complaint vs Badoy-Partosa and Celiz.

“There is even a point that my travels to my home province have been maliciously maligned,” he said.

Casiño added that Celiz and Badoy-Partosa’s lies, hate speech and death threats are magnified by mercenary trolls and fake accounts, affecting his family’s reputation and integrity he has built and protected for many years.

“As a Leftist activist, I have been called many things by my detractors. But to be falsely and repeatedly accused of being a high ranking official of an organization arbitrarily designated by the Anti Terrorism Council as a terrorist organization, and accused of orchestrating the death of thousands and the destruction of the country, is just too much,” he said.

The veteran government and street parliamentarian added that he and other victims suffer dismay, unease, anger, stress and countless sleepless nights because of Celiz and Badoy-Partosa.

Casiño’s complaint was filed after mother and son Carol and Alfonso Tomas (Atom) Araullo, media organizations and other entities have filed various complaints against the red-tagging duo and SMNI before various courts, the MTRCB, the Office of the Ombudsman and the National Telecommunications Commission.

“I file this case not only for myself but for the sake of countless other activists and ordinary citizens who are being victimized on a daily basis by SMNI and the NTF-ELCAC. This must stop. Badoy-Partosa, Celiz and their fellow red-taggers must answer for their lies and attacks,” Casiño said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Marcos government no better than Duterte’s, rights defenders say

Like previous governments, the Ferdinand Marcos Jr. administration is failing to comply with its obligations under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), a human rights group said.

On the 75th anniversary of the signing of the international treaty last Sunday, December 10, human rights alliance Karapatan said the Ferdinand Marcos Jr. government, much like the preceding Rodrigo Duterte regime, is committing various violations of human rights and the international humanitarian law amid widespread and intensifying poverty of Filipinos.

“Among the most violated is the right to life. As of November 2023, (we have) documented 87 extrajudicial killings in the course of the Marcos Jr. regime’s brutal counter- insurgency war since he began his term in July 2022,” the group said.

Among those killed by government personnel was a nine-year old girl to a mentally ill farmer,” Karapatan revealed.

The group also said there have been 12 victims of enforced disappearance; 316 victims of illegal and arbitrary arrest; 22,391 victims of bombing; 39,769 victims of indiscriminate firing; 24,670 victims of forced evacuation; 552 victims of forced surrender; and 1,609,49 6 victims of threats, harassment and intimidation, including red-tagging.

Karapatan added hundreds are facing “trumped up charges,” including 795 political detainees in the country’s notoriously overcrowded prisons.

At least seventeen of political prisoners are peace consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in its peace process with the Manila government.

Rights defenders pelt effigies of Marcos Jr., Duterte-Carpio and US imperialism with red paint and eggs in Manila on International Human Rights Day 2023. (Karlo Manalansan/Bulatlat)

Violations in the name of counter-insurgency

The country’s most active human rights alliance said the Marcos government has continued to implement repressive laws such as the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 to suppress dissent as well as derail development and humanitarian work.

“The wrongful designation of peace consultants and negotiators, as well as community and indigenous people’s leaders, and the baseless charges against human rights defenders have exposed the weaponization of these laws to violate the people’s constitutional rights,” Karapatan said.

The group also condemned the government’s counter-insurgency program and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) as a “militarist whole-of-nation approach” that go after human rights defenders, instead of addressing the roots of the civil wars in the country.

Karapatan, which co-organized the 2023 International Human Rights Day protests in Manila with Bagong Alyansang Makabayan last Sunday, said killings under the government’s anti-drug programs continue.

It revealed that the Dahas Project of the Third World Studies Program of the University of the Philippines has documented at least 474 drug-war related killings under Marcos.

This belies Marcos government’s claims that its version of the drug war is “bloodless”, the group said.

“Despite Marcos Jr.’s cultivated facade, the sordid figures on rights violations prove that he is his dictator-father’s son and his regime, a continuation of that of his predecessor Rodrigo Duterte. Duterte himself is accountable for up to 30,000 deaths in his bloody war on drugs and the killings of 422 activists, on top of other grave violations of human rights,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said.

Rights defenders elsewhere in the Philippines also held protest rallies in Baguio, Southern Tagalog, Naga, Legazpi, Bacolod, Iloilo, Roxas, Kalibo and Davao while Filipino activists at the Climate Change Summit in Dubai also attended international human rights day in the emirate. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘The NTF-ELCAC should be disbanded’

“It is evident that the NTF-ELCAC (National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict is using its powers to protect key economic interests in the country. This has nothing to do with anti-terrorism or anti-communism. The military’s gross overreaction to people trying to defend their right to a safe, clean health and sustainable environment is totally unacceptable. The NTF-ELCAC should be disbanded.”—United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in the Context of Climate Change Ian Fry

(Image by Jo Maois D. Mamangun)