“Maling-mali ang paratang ng National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict o NTF-ELCAC at ibang opisyal publiko na kami ay terorista. Ito ay labag sa karapatang pantao, labag sa sinumpaang mandato ng gobyerno sa mamamayan. Ang ganitong pananakot at pagsiil ay pagpapahamak sa aming women’s rights advocates, at pagkakait sa kababaihan na nangangailangan ng tulong at pag-agapay.” — Joms Salvador, Secretary General, Gabriela
by Sonny Africa
IBON staff reflect on red-tagging and its attack on the ideas of the Left
Two weeks ago, as floodwaters reached a new high to trap thousands of Filipinos on the roofs of their homes and force hundreds of thousands more to evacuate, red-tagging reached a new low.
The nation struggled to mobilize help beyond what the government was giving but the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) saw it as just another day at work to whine about Reds. It tried to dissuade donations for relief work of youth activists, took a swipe at CNN Philippines for being infiltrated, and even thought it worthwhile to meddle in a call for support among co-parents in a high school group chat.
The sad episode is a case study of the depths the Duterte government goes to in calling people Communists or terrorists and organizations as fronts or infiltrated. The hysterical claim last week is that the call for donations is “extorting money and goods to fund and support their terrorist activities”. Go figure.
But it also prompts deeper reflection on what red-tagging is and why we all lose from it. It isn’t the mere labelling that the government and its security apparatus like to pretend it is and which, they insist, even the Left does to itself. Red-tagging is labelling to attack not just people and organizations but also the very ideas and values so needed to make tomorrow better than today.
Fear of ducks
These are the coordinates of their lunacy: Communists are terrorists, Communist ideas a.k.a. Leftist ideas are passé, and anyone spouting Leftist ideas is a terrorist or a brainwashed puppet.
But the thing is, with the world and the country the way they are, it’s obvious what anyone concerned about humanity will cherish for their absence – social justice, equality, and a decent life for all. An honest grasp of history, politics and economics also points to what’s needed for these values to become real – people taking control of society and their lives.
Drilling down further shows what makes ‘Reds’ look, swim and quack like the ducks that elites fear so much – the rejection of capitalism, redistribution of wealth, and the imagining (or even building) of a socialist alternative. There’s a diversity of ducks but they all have these feathers.
Reds proudly embrace these ideas, and are famously relentless in putting these ideas into practice as conditions allow. They wear their red hearts on their sleeves and wave their red flags, literally and figuratively, because it isn’t enough for the ideas to be compelling. They have to be grasped and embraced and practiced by as many people as possible.
Which brings us back to red-tagging. Leftist ideas are the floodwaters of social change but instead of homes of the poor they wash away the structures of power. These waters are rising – maybe not like a storm surge but inexorably rising nonetheless.
Red-tagging aims to put a stop to that. Starting with activists and their organizations, including their supporters, and then really anyone daring to think differently and taking a stand. It wants to reduce radical ideas to a trickle of disembodied voices embellishing a fake democracy but threatening no one.
Progressive ideas will be tolerated if spoken from armchairs or as rhetoric in speeches and policy-making. But red flags are raised when these ideas are connected to each other and, especially, when they’re borne by the organized power of politicized Filipinos in a mass movement for change.
Capitalism and wannabe authoritarians don’t want that. They need a blind and docile public that doesn’t question why the economy leaves them behind, nor that opposes unrelenting corruption and the abuse of power.
The Duterte administration is averse to Leftist ideas but is incapable of arguing against them beyond shrill banalities. The government admits as much whenever it laments losing the “propaganda war,” as verbalized by the NTF-ELCAC, National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA), and even a militarist senator.
What they don’t see and can’t concede is that they’re losing because they’re on the wrong side of history – so they’ve gone duck hunting instead.
This wouldn’t be a problem if they were going after armed ducks. The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-led New People’s Army (NPA) is waging armed revolution in the countryside and, for that, is prepared for an equally armed response. The state can’t seem to defeat them in the battlefield and is in a virtual stalemate. But that’s another story.
The problem is that the Duterte administration is going after anything that quacks, wherever they might be, even if they aren’t doing anything illegal in their advocacies, projects, humanitarian work, law-making, and fiscalizing. In a back-handed compliment, the state is starting with the biggest, most influential, and deepest-rooted mainstream Left forces. The calculation may be that if the powerful radical flank is broken then moderates become more manageable.
The new Anti-Terrorism Law (ATL) is bringing a tactical nuke cannon to a duck hunt with the same kind of widespread and excessive damage. Red-tagging today is in cheap posters and flyers, bad PowerPoint presentations, loose media statements, and troll-like social media posts.
The ATL will make red-tagging graduate from these – bypassing courts where they’d just be a mess of inadmissible evidence – to become the first step towards thinly ‘legalized’ surveillance, freezing of assets, warrantless arrests, and indefinite detention. The brazen abductions and assassinations by shadowy state security forces before the new law will still continue.
Red-taggers won’t admit it but they know they would never win a battle of ideas. So they fight with twisted fantasies instead and bank on sheer repetition using the vast propaganda apparatus of the government.
Armed Reds and Leftist activists, or armed Leftists and Red activists, are crudely lumped together — this only exposes that it’s Red and Left ideas that they fear most of all. The NTF-ELCAC’s banal propagandists think that they’ve stumbled on irrefutable wisdom and repeat this ad nauseam.
A Philippines that would be idyllic if not for the renegade violence of NPA bandits in the countryside? As if it isn’t the government that’s been killing tens of thousands of alleged drug offenders and unarmed activists. The Duterte government’s state-sponsored and -sanctioned violence against civilians kills more than the guerrilla war does in the countryside.
Families blissfully happy if not for youth brainwashed to hate their parents? As if children, youth and students can’t see for themselves how their families and many others are exploited while a fraction have uncountable wealth and luxury. Our best and brightest love their country and their families. Their choices come from maturity and deserve respect.
Activists whose real agenda is hate, death and destruction? As if they aren’t among the most consistently compassionate, dedicated and productive defenders of human rights or enablers of oppressed and exploited folks wherever they might be. The self-sacrifice is out of a deep love for others.
Lumad communities in picturesque harmony if not for NPA recruiters? As if they don’t know that soldiers and paramilitary goons pave the way for mining, logging and energy projects that won’t benefit the Lumad communities. The government exploits the Lumad many times over when they are paraded as propaganda props.
The NPA are rapists, murderers and extortionists? As if a roving army of such deviants could survive for decades, attracting idealistic youth and getting the support of rural communities knowing them and seeing for themselves who they are.
And an economy made poor by Communist armed conflict? As if the economy wasn’t poor before the rise of rebellion, and isn’t kept poor by neoliberal policy incantations from worshipers of the Gods of Capitalism. And as if the most rapid economic growth in decades hasn’t benefited oligarchs, government functionaries, and foreign capital while leaving the majority poor and farther behind than ever.
The red pill
Part of red-tagging is the Duterte government wanting us to take the blue pill. To swallow their disinformation, stay ignorant, and live in the confines of an unjust, unequal and unchanging world. It’s a pill to make people not just clueless but ultimately helpless and hopeless.
The red pill, on the other hand, frees us from the enslaving control of thinking that there is no alternative to capitalism and the status quo. It affirms the working class coming together as the most powerful force for change for the better.
It also makes us see how everything is commodified where the presidency, elections, legislators and laws, even the judiciary can be bought. And how oligarchs, foreign investors, business cronies, and government officials have become wealthier – as well how the wealth of the president and his family has become suspiciously invisible.
At one level, the NTF-ELCAC propagandists are just indoctrinated military personnel and folks with a quasi-religious devotion to the president (or maybe just a crush). At a deeper level, the NTF-ELCAC is the spearhead of the system trying to put down dissent and the rising waters of social revolution.
A line is being drawn in the dolomite sand. But it isn’t between those for or against ‘Communist-terrorists’ – it’s between those embracing or enabling the status quo and those choosing to change this for the better. More than ever, it’s time to take sides. #
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Kodao publishes IBON articles as part of a content-sharing agreement.
Despicable, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said of Lorraine Marie Badoy’s red-tagging of CNN Philippines during a calamity.
Reacting to the Cabinet undersecretary’s insinuation that alleged communist fronts exist inside the media company, the NUJP said Badoy “is totally irresponsible and endangers our colleagues in CNN, not to mention the members of LFS (League of Filipino Students) and our affiliate, the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP).”
In a post on her Facebook account, Badoy takes CNN to task for retweeting an announcement from the League of Filipino Students, which she labels “a known front of the terrorist CPP NPA NDF,” that it is accepting donations for victims of typhoons Rolly and Ulysses.
She then asks: “Wassup, CNN? Is it true there is a LFS/CEGP cell inside CNN?”
Badoy, Presidential Communications Operations Office undersecretary for new media and spokesperson of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, is among the Duterte government’s most notorious red-baiters.
Local and international human rights organizations have repeatedly warned the government that red-tagging often lead to unjust arrests or, worse, assassinations of government critics.
“By making baseless claims without any proof and casting blanket accusations against a media outfit and, yes, a youth organization, this unelected government official is, in fact, violating two basic rights guaranteed by the Constitution, due process and freedom of association,” the NUJP said in a statement Saturday.
The media group added Badoy actually vilified and practically seeks the criminalization of an act of charity at a time when millions of Filipinos desperately need all the help they can get.
“Such heartless behavior is a disgrace not only to her office but to the whole government she supposedly serves,” the NUJP said.
CNN Philippines did not take Badoy’s apparent slander sitting down, either, strongly objecting to her “misplaced and baseless allusion” that some of its employees have links to underground groups.
The company said in a statement that the LFS is just one of the many groups that have launched a relief drive for the victims of recent typhoons that include Caritas Manila, Kaya Natin PH, Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan, student organizations from UP Diliman, UP Manila, UP Los Banos and Ateneo de Manila University, among others.
“We believe the back-to-back storms that ravaged our country serve as an opportunity to rise up from the ruins and practice the Filpino spirit of ‘Bayanihan’ in whatever capacity we can, rather than foray into red-tagging that will only sow disunity,” CNN Philippines said.
“We continue to update the list to give as many options for kindhearted individuals because we believe our suffering countrymen need all the help they can get in this time of calamities,” the company added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)
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Disclosure: Reporter is NUJP deputy secretary general and Kodao is a NUJP chapter.
Men took up actor Angel Locsin’s red lipstick challenge in protest of Armed Forces of the Philippines Southern Luzon Command chief Lt. General Antonio Parlade Jr.’s latest red-tagging spree against government critics.
In response to Parlade’s newest accusation that Locsin, sister Angela Colmenares and cousin Neri Colmenares are either Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) members or New People’s Army fighters, Locsin took to social media platforms to ask those against red tagging to wear red lipstick.
The “challenge”, with the hashtags #NoToRedTagging and #YesToRedLipstick, went viral.
Parlade’s latest red-baiting binge also attacked actors Lisa Soberano and 2018 Miss Universe Catriona Gray who spoke on online women’s rights forums organized by Gabriela Youth.
Gabriela Youth is one of many organizations the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict repeatedly red-tags as a CPP front.
Red-baiting had been condemned as dangerous to its victims, many of whom are later assassinated by suspected military agents.
It is not only the womenfolk who took up Locsin’s challenge; men did too.
Overseas Filipino Workers
(By Raymund B. Villanueva / All photos taken from the subjects’ respective Facebook accounts / Featured image editing by Alyssa Mae Clarin)
Labor federation Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) condemned the creation of police offices in Central Luzon industrial zones, saying the move violates the Constitutionally-guaranteed right to form and join organizations.
The KMU blasted Philippine National Police (PNP) in Region III and the Rodrigo Duterte government’s National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) as the agencies announced the creation of the Joint Industrial Peace and Concern Office (JIPCO) to prevent militant labor groups from organizing unions in the region.
“The creation of the JIPCO is a direct attack on workers’ basic right to form unions –our legitimate means to collectively fight for our basic interests and welfare as workers. The JIPCO is meant to stifle not the so-called ‘radical labor infiltration’ but the workers’ very right to exercise self-organization and union work,” KMU Chairperson Elmer “Ka Bong” Labog said.
PNP Central Luzon director Police General Rhodel Sermonia last Wednesday, January 22, led JIPCO’s launch at the Clark Freeport Zone in Zambales Province “to act as the first line of defense from radical labor infiltration of the labor force and the industrial zones in support of ELCAC (End Local Communist Armed Conflict).”
With Sermonia as guests of honor and speakers were presidential adviser on the peace process Secretary Carlito Galvez, newly installed Philippine National Police (PNP) Direcor General Archie Francisco Gamboa, and Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) Director Charito Plaza.
The KMU however said there can be no peace anywhere in the Philippines if the PNP, known for criminal and deadly practices such as “ninja cops” and “Oplan Tokhang”, are tasked to prevent unionism in factories and workplaces.
The group also noted that both the PNP and Philippine Army have repeatedly accused militant labor unions of being supporters of the underground communist movement in the Philippines. The creation of a JIPCO is precisely aimed to prevent organizing of unions which will affect the entire labor sector, it added.
“The [NTF-ELCAC] has been weaponized to the extent of violating fundamental rights of workers to form unions, which are clearly provided in the Bill of Rights of the Philippine Constitution, as well as International Conventions. The JIPCO in effect bans the existence of any union and all unions in Central Luzon,” said KMU’s Labog.
The militant labor group charged that the JIPCO is a project of the National Task Force- End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), which was created through Executive Order No. 70.
“That the JIPCO is a mechanism to defend industrial zones from radical labor in support of the ELCAC is all rhetoric for crushing legitimate people’s organizations carrying legitimate demands, such as unions calling for higher wages, regular work and implementation of labor standards, especially in Economic Zones which are not regulated by the Labor Department,” Labog said.
The labor leader also added that “only the few big capitalists stand to benefit from the eradication of unions in the economic zones.”
The KMU Chairman asked workers and the people to launch actions and engage all institutions to stop JIPCO even as it looks for possible legal actions against the PNP and PEZA. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)