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Canadian Parliament denounces attacks on Karapatan’s Palabay

Canadian parliamentarians called on the Philippines government to stop its officials from harassing and threatening the lives of human rights defenders.

In a statement, the Canadian House of Commons Subcommittee on International Human Rights said it is appalled that Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay was harassed and threatened by a top intelligence official after appearing as a resource person in its hearing earlier this month.

“After sharing her traumatic experiences defending human rights in the Philippines, Cristina Palabay’s life was threatened by agents of the Philippines government as a direct result of her appearance before the Subcommittee,” it said from Ottawa.

“The Subcommittee is appalled by the situation Ms. Palabay finds herself in,” the Subcommittee added.

Palabay and Rappler executive editor Maria Ressa narrated human rights abuses by the Rodrigo Duterte government in a hearing conducted by the Subcommittee last May 4.

The Canadian parliamentarians said Palabay’s “brave” testimony described the crumbling state of human rights in the Philippines, for which is continuously being persecuted.

Immediately after, National Intelligence Coordinating Agency Alex Paul Monteagudo posted images online alleging Palabay’s connections with the underground Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army.

Just last month, Monteagudo earned the ire of Philippine Senators and the employees union of the Philippine Senate for his “malicious, baseless and dangerous” red-tagging activities of public sector unionists.

The Subcommittee said it will take “additional measures” to mitigate risks Palabay and other resource persons face.

“The personal safety and wellbeing of all those who appear before the Subcommittee are of the utmost concern to its members,” the Subcommittee said.

Red-tagging memes posted by NICA director general Alex Paul Monteagudo. (Karapatan-supplied images)

It also called on the Canadian government to denounce the attacks, especially against human rights defenders such as Palabay.

“The Subcommittee reminds states that have ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, such as the Philippines, that when attacking human rights defenders, they are violating their international human rights obligations,” it said.

Palabay also denounced the attacks, saying Monteagudo’s posts show the Duterte government’s “disdain for independent justice-seeking efforts.”

Palabay said reprisals by government officials against defenders who provide testimonies and information to governmental or inter-governmental bodies on the human rights situation in the Philippines should stop. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘Preparasyon na nila ‘yan sa eleksyon’

“Itong bira nila sa Makabayan, lalo na sa oposisyon, preparasyon na nila ‘yan sa eleksyon. Gustong lumpuhin ng gobyerno ang oposisyon bago pa man mag-halalan. Hindi na lang ito red-tagging kundi using the government funds for electoral purposes to defend the administration. May tulog talaga ang Duterte candidates at para ma-ensure na manalo sila, lulumphin nila ang oposisyon long before 2022. It’s a combination of red-tagging and electioneering using public funds.”Atty. Neri Colmenares, Chairman, Bayan Muna

Hijack

Cartoon by Crisby Delgado, PUP/Kodao

After red-tagging the community pantry phenomenon, the Philippine National Police ordered its station commanders to put up their own versions. The PNP said their pantries must employ pre-designated beneficiaries in the rollout of their Barangayanihan initiative. “Respective beneficiaries will take pictures of the activity and post in their respective FB accounts. These netizens can be planted beneficiary civilians so as to manifest community’s appreciation,” read the police project brief. #

Red-tagging halts kindness: Maginhawa community pantry suspends operations

Red-tagging and police harassment has forced the phenomenal Maginhawa Community Pantry to suspend operations, one of its initiators announced late Monday evening.

“Bad news. The #MaginhawaCommunityPantry is temporarily taking a pause for the safety of its volunteers. This is sad as we will not be able to distribute the goods we prepared all day because of the #RedTagging that is happening,” Anna Patricia Non said on her Facebook account.

The Maginhawa Community Pantry that inspired 300 similar initiatives throughout Luzon.

Non said she was sure there would be more poor people who are expected to line up on Tuesday morning but the pantry’s operations would have to wait, more so that other pantries were also having problems with the police.

As of seven o’clock Tuesday morning, intended beneficiaries who started lining up at three o’clock, were walking home to nearby Barangay Krus na Ligas with empty bags.

Non’s community pantry initiative at Barangay Teachers’ Village East spread like wildfire throughout Luzon with at least 300 similar efforts from as far north as Ilagan City in Isabela, as far south as Legazpi City in Albay and as remotely as Odiongan in Romblon.

Other community pantries are also being planned in the Visayas.

Non revealed that three police officers have demanded to be given her phone number and have interrogated her as to her affiliations.

(Screenshot from PA Non’s FB account)

“I am afraid to walk to the community pantry alone at five o’clock in the morning because of the baseless accusations against us,” Non said.

The police have started visiting community pantries in Quezon City and Manila on Monday afternoon, asking its organizers to fill up forms and interrogating the organizers.

(Screenshot from PA Non’s FB account)

Both the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict and the Quezon City Police District of the Philippine National Police also shared a post by the Facebook page called Peace Philippines alleging the community pantries were organized to recruit and gather funds for the communist New People’s Army.

The move earned swift and wide condemnation on social media.

Bayan Muna Representative Ferdinand Gaite also slammed the police’s operations against the pantries, saying these were unnecessarily causing anxiety to the organizers.

“Have you no decency? Why are you intimidating those who only wish to help?” Gaite asked. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

ACT, TDC express alarm as DepEd gathers numbers of members

Two teachers’ organizations oppose a Department of Education (DepEd) order to gather numbers of their members in several regions throughout the country.

The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) and the Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC) expressed alarm at the directive to division level officials on orders from DepEd Undersecretary for Field Operations Revsee Escobedo.

“As per reports, our union leaders in regions 1, 3, 4A, 4B, 6, 10, and CAR have been asked by their division offices to provide the number of ACT members in their area as per orders from Usec. Revsee,” ACT said in a statement Saturday, April 17.

TDC for its part bared that one notice sent through a Facebook chat group in one of the divisions in Region II reads: “Good morning everyone, the DepEd Central Office is surveying thru this online form, teachers, who are currently members of the (TDC) and (ACT). We appreciate receiving your feedback by filling out this Google form today until 12:00 Noon. All PSDS/Districts In-charge are requested to disseminate to all School Heads and Teachers in AOR (area of responsibility).”

Both organizations, victims of red-tagging operations by the police and military, said the order may be another profiling drive against their members.

‘For possible dialogues’

Escobedo confirmed to Kodao he issued the order but said it is in preparation for possible dialogues with both organizations and other teachers’ groups.

Department of Education Undersecretary for Field Operations, Atty. Revsee Escobedo. (Phjoto from DepEd Tayo FB page)

“I only asked for numbers, not names. How can we red-tag numbers?” Escobedo, also DepEd Employees Association Coordinating Office supervising official, said in a phone interview.

The official said they want to know the number of members of teachers’ groups to identify which organizations to initiate dialogues with on various issues such as salary increases.

He said the groups’ statements are overreactions.

‘No clear explanation’

Both teachers’ organizations however said the order, sent only through text and social media messages, lack explanation that gives rise to doubts as to its real intent.

ACT recalled that the Philippine National Police earlier asked school officials for the names of its members, several of whom were later accused of being communists or communist sympathizers.

“This is eerily reminiscent of the 2019 police profiling of our members, which precluded worse attacks on our members and on our very organization,” ACT said.

The group said its members Nestor Ada and Lai Consad have been arrested and charged with trumped-up charges after being profiled and subsequently red-tagged.

Ada, a high school principal, is still in jail in Northern Samar three months after being arrested on charges of illegal possession of guns and explosives in campus.

Assistant Principal Consad was also arrested at her school in Butuan City last November after being red-tagged by the police and the military.

“So we’re understandably alarmed at (the) sudden interest with our members,” ACT secretary general Raymond Basilio said.

TDC for its part said it will instruct its members not to participate in the “survey, profiling and inventory” of its members that “has no clear objectives and hastily done through Google Forms, text messages, Facebook messages or phone calls.”

ACT said DepEd has never defended teachers and school officials who fell victim to red-tagging and persecution by other government agencies.

The DepEd is a member of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Employees and senators fight back vs. NICA, Badoy

The Senate employees union and several Senators condemned National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) director general Alex Paul Monteagudo and communication secretary Lorraine Badoy’s latest anti-communist witch-hunt.

The Sandigan ng mga Empleyadong Nagkakaisa sa Adhikain ng Demokratikong Organisasyon (SENADO) said Monteagudo’s allegation it exists as the eyes and ears of Communist groups in the Senate was malicious, baseless and dangerous that endangers the lives of its leaders.

“We are apprehensive that our leaders will now be the subject of vilification, harassment, arrest as they did to other union leaders affiliated with COURAGE (Confederation for the Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees) and, worse, killing which is happening now against unionists,” SENADO said.

The group said it believes it is being attacked for condemning earlier red-tagging activities by government agencies against legitimate public sector unions.

SENADO demanded that Monteagudo take down his post and apologize to all Senate official and employees “for his disrespect and profanity directed to the institution that is the stalwart of democracy and human rights.”

NICA chief Alex Monteagudo’s Facebook page that earned condemnation from Senators and government employees.

In a Facebook post, Monteagudo alleged that the Senate union serves as the eyes and ears of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front of the Philippines to hijack government projects and plans.

Communications secretary Lorraine Badoy also red-tagged the union in a column published by the Philippine News Agency.

Senators have come to the defense of the union.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III said he should know if the union is hijacking the government from within.

“[Monteagudo]) must have been misinformed. I would be the first to sense of such if ever. I’ve been there (in the Senate) since 1992,” Sotto said. 

He lauded SENADO for having led the passage of three Collective Negotiating Agreements for Senate employees’ rights and benefits.

Four opposition senators also condemned Monteagudo and Badoy’s allegations as “dangerous.”

“These are not just baseless attacks and vilification against the employees but against the institution of the Senate they represent,” minority bloc senators Franklin Drilon, Francis Pangilinan, Risa Hontiveros and Leila de Lima said in a statement.

The four senators pressed for the passage of Senate Bill 2121, or the proposed “Act Defining and Penalizing Red-Tagging”.  

COURAGE meanwhile said its ranks will not back down under such repeated attacks and vowed to work harder for wage increases, job security, union rights and democratic and nationalist governance. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Groups welcome Senate bill criminalizing red-tagging

Several groups welcomed a bill filed by Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon criminalizing red-tagging, promising to strongly lobby for its passage.

Both the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said they support the measure that seeks to penalize the act.

“This is a very welcome development in the people’s fight against State-sponsored red-tagging and human rights violations. We are hoping for the approval of this measure. Farmers will lobby for the passage of this bill,” KMP chairperson Danilo Ramos said.  

The farmers’ group said it is being consistently red-tagged by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police and its Criminal Investigation and Detection Group.

“Many of our leaders and members who were subjected to red-tagging were either extrajudicially-killed, illegally arrested, and charged with trumped-up non-bailable charges. Red-tagging kills. We want masterminds of red-tagging to be held accountable accordingly,” Ramos said.

In a separate statement, the NUJP said it also welcomes Drilon’s bill seeking to define and penalize red-tagging by State actors.

“These dangerous accusations, when done by state agents as part of a so-called counter-insurgency program, are no longer private opinions and conspiracy theories but official actions and policy,” the NUJP said.

Like the KMP, NUJP has been openly and repeatedly accused by government officials of fronting for the Communist Party of the Philippines, an allegation it has consistently denied.

“Red-tagging has often led to harassment and violence against its targets and NUJP welcomes moves that will protect journalists from these threats and hold those making them to account,” it said. Filed on Wednesday, March 24, Drilon’s measure seeks to define red-tagging as “the act of labeling, vilifying, branding, naming, accusing, harassing, persecuting, stereotyping or caricaturing individuals, groups or organizations as state enemies, left-leaning subversives, communists or terrorists, or as part of counter-insurgency, or anti-terrorism strategy or program, by any state actor such as law enforcement agent, paramilitary or military personnel.”

The Senate Bill also seeks a penalty of 10 years imprisonment and perpetual absolute disqualification to hold public office for violators. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

IN SUPPORT OF CONG CORRALES AND LADY ANN SALEM

A statement by Fellows of the 2011 UP-CMC Lopez Jaena Community Journalism Workshop

Mindanao Gold Star Daily associate editor Leonardo Vicente “Cong” B. Corrales is again under attack by enemies of press freedom and freedom of expression. Shady people behind Facebook page “Kamatooran” and “Uswag Radio Bukidnon” red-tagged Cong, an abominable act that puts our colleague in grave danger.

We, fellows of the 15th University of the Philippines-College of Mass Communication Lopez Jaena Community Journalism Workshop, condemn the cowardly attacks against our co-fellow Cong. He has not done anything illegal and immoral in voicing out his opinions. It is his attackers who warrant investigation and prosecution for their dastardly deeds.

Like Cong, our Lopez Jaena batch mate and Manila Today editor Lady Ann “Icy” Salem is also being made to suffer for speaking truth to power. She was unjustly arrested last December 10, International Human Rights Day, and slapped with patently trumped-up charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives. The State preposterously accused her of being a member of a gun-running syndicate when all she wields is her pen and camera. Icy has yet to be released from prison more than two weeks after the Mandaluyong Court dismissed the charges against her.

The enemies of freedom are mistaken in thinking our colleagues are easily cowed. Both remain steadfast and vow to keep speaking out for truth and justice. We applaud Cong and Icy’s fortitude against efforts to silence their voices. We are proud of them.

When social injustices reign, critical voices like Cong and Icy’s could only spark hope. There should be more voices like theirs, not less. #

SIGNED:

-Joseph Ben “JB” R. Deveza                             -Rev. Fr. Ritche T. Salgado, OCarm

-Ronalyn “Len” V. Olea                                     -JM Agreda

-Michelle Castro Zoleta                                    -Raymund B. Villanueva

-Bobby Q. Labalan                                            -Renato “Macky” Macaspac

-Winnie Aguilar                                                -Kim Arveen Patria

-Ryan D. Rosauro

-Ed Lingao (Resource Person)

‘Instead of red-tagging, address the root causes of armed conflict’

“Let’s not forget the ‘2018 Red October’ plot. The Duterte regime is repeating its old and cheap narrative to hide its incompetence in handling the pandemic and economic issues. Instead of red-tagging these (18 SUCs) schools, address the root causes of armed conflict and heed the people’s demands.” Regina Tolentino, Deputy Secretary-General, College Editors Guild of the Philippines

Mga progresibong grupo, naghain ng reklamo laban sa NTF-ELCAC

Nagtungo sa Office of the Ombudsman para maghain ng kasong administratibo at kriminal ang Altermidya Peoples’ Network, Bulatlat, Kodao Productions at Pinoy Weekly laban sa mga opisyal ng National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict o NTF-ELCAC.

Ito ay hinggil sa red-tagging kamakailan ng NTF-ELCAC sa mga alternative media organizations. Naging resulta ito nang pag-aresto at pagkakulong nila Frenchie Mae Cumpio ng Eastern Vista noong Pebrero 2020 at Lady Ann Salem, editor ng Manila Today, na inaresto noong Disyembre 10 sa Mandaluyong City.

Ayon sa kanila, ang red-tagging ay nagdudulot ng panganib sa mamamahayag at sa malayang pamamahayag. # (Bidyo ni Joseph Cuevas/Kodao)