Media groups slammed renewed efforts by the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Baguio City to red-tag journalists it alleges are members of Leftist organizations.
In an alert, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said at least two journalists in the Cordillera region have been invited to a fake dialogue with the Baguio City Police earlier this month that turned out to be a witch-hunting activity against journalists and activists.
On January 14, the Baguio Correspondents and Broadcasters Club Inc. (BCBC) and NUJP’s Baguio-Benguet chapter said BCBC president Aldwin Quitasol was invited by the Baguio City Police to attend a so-called dialogue that turned out to be part of its Community Support Program White Area Operation (CSP-WAO), a component of the government’s Oplan Kapayapaan targeting suspected sympathizers of communist rebels in conflict-affected areas.
The second journalist refused to be identified.
In their joint statement BCBC and NUJP Baguio-Benguet demanded a stop to the red-tagging and witch-hunting of journalists.
“We are strongly concerned by the renewed effort of the (PNP) to drag us in their counterinsurgency campaign through Dumanon, Makitongtong (Seek and Talk), which the Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) adopted from Oplan Tokhang of the Duterte administration,” the local media groups said.
Whatever name it carries, the PNP’s counter-insurgency campaigns involving journalists as well as activists aims to harass and intimidate, they added.
“We urge law enforcers to cease this madness, stop targeting activists and the media in their counterinsurgency actions. We also call on local governments to take a stand and protect the people against institutionalized red-tagging and political vilification,” BCBC and NUJP Baguio-Benguet said.
Human rights violations
This month’s incident is not the first time that Baguio City Police has accused journalists of links to supposed Communist fronts.
In February 2021, the Regional Law Enforcement Coordinating Committee in CAR endorsed tokhang-type campaigns against alleged left-leaning personalities, including activists and the media.
The proposal was quietly dropped after widespread criticism, but police officials last August revived the proposal for the so-called seek and talk strategy against alleged members of left-leaning organizations, the NUJP said.
Cases of red-tagging in the Cordillera Administrative Region rose to 15 incidents in 2021 from eight complaints filed in 2020, the NUJP, quoting the Cordillera office of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR-Cordillera), said.
The campaign is patterned after the tokhang campaign used in the Rodrigo Duterte government’s so-called war on drugs that, according to government data, has killed at least 6,000 victims, it added.
Following earlier police summons of Quitasol, CHR-Cordillera in June 2021 issued a resolution warning that red-tagging — linking individuals and groups to the communist armed rebellion — violates human rights.
Other rights organizations, including the UN Human Rights Office, have also warned against the practice, which they said can lead to harassment and physical attacks. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)