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Human rights group urges PH to stop red-tagging 

By: Krixia Subingsubing - | January 15,2024 - 10:03 AM


Militant activists and other progressive groups troop at Camp Crame in Quezon City on Friday, Dec. 11, 2020, to protest the arrest of 7 activists during the celebration of Human Rights Day and slam the red tagging by the government of progressive groups. (File photo by GRIG C. MONTEGRANDE / Philippine DailyInquirer)

MANILA, Philippines — Before the controversial antiterror law takes effect on January 15, Human Rights Watch (HRW) is urging the Philippine government to stop the harmful practice of red-tagging leftist activists and critics.

In their 2024 World Report, the international human rights organization highlighted the government’s tightening of democratic space by targeting leftist activist groups through the justice system.

While the group took note of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s “measured rhetoric” about human rights, it said that many of the abuses reported under his predecessor, former President Rodrigo Duterte, remained rampant.

HRW also pointed out that there seemed to be no “evident efforts to end the practice” despite Marcos’ promise to improve the country’s human rights situation.

The group specifically expressed concern over Red-tagging, which recently has turned into “terrorist-tagging,” as the government wields its “harsh and overbroad” Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 (Republic Act No. 11479) to target civil society organizations.


It cited the humanitarian group Community Empowerment Resource Network, which, after being Red-tagged by the military, was charged with providing funds to the New People’s Army (NPA).

This practice appears to have paved the way for another phenomenon: the abductions of and subsequent “surrender” of activists, HRW said. It pointed to the abduction of Cebu-based activists Dyan Gumanao and Armand Dayoha at a port in Cebu City, who later surfaced to accuse state agents of kidnapping them.

Last September, environmental activists Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano also went missing and were later presented to the media by state forces who claimed they were NPA fighters.

But in a separate state-organized press conference, the two belied the claim against them and accused the military of abducting them.

Case against Duterte

Given these circumstances, HRW Deputy Asia director Bryony Lau urged the Marcos administration to “end the pernicious practice of labeling government opponents as communists.”

“Red-tagging is a form of harassment that can lead to deadly abuses, and runs counter to Marcos’ pledge to promote human rights,” he said.

One such example that underscored how this practice could lead to other violations is the case of ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro, who has not only borne the brunt of the government’s Red-tagging but is also consistently branded as an NPA sympathizer.

On Jan. 9, the Quezon City Prosecutor’s Office dismissed her criminal complaint of grave threats against Duterte, citing lack of sufficient evidence.

The decision angered local rights groups, who questioned how the prosecutor could claim that Duterte “was not serious in hurling death threats.”

From its own records, Karapatan said that at least 422 activists were killed during his six-year term and another 574 survived attempts on their lives simply because of “Duterte’s explicit kill orders through public statements in front of soldiers and police.”

“The number of Duterte’s victims is no joke. It is never a laughing matter to be threatened by a brutal fascist with a murderous history like Duterte. The Quezon City prosecutor must reconsider the decision and indict Duterte for the grave threats he said against Representative Castro,” Karapatan said.

READ MORE: Pushback against Red-tagging



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TAGS: Bongbong Marcos, human rights, human rights watch

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