Statement of CHR spokesperson, Atty Jacqueline Ann de Guia, on the spate of red-tagging reports

Statement of CHR spokesperson, Atty Jacqueline Ann de Guia, on the spate of red-tagging reports

It is most concerning that the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has noted incidences of red-tagging of human rights groups, civil society organisations, and individuals even in the face of a pandemic.

To date, we note reports of red-tagging involving the Union of Journalists of the Philippines, a student organisation in the UP College of Mass Communication; the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates, a consolidation of individuals, institutions, and organisations across the country for the protection and promotion of human rights; Rowena Carranza-Paraan, former chairperson of the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines; Windel Bolinget, the harassment experienced by his family because of such allegations, including the Cordillera Peoples Alliance and its network of organizations and institutions; and several other groups and individuals in local communities in the country.

The ‘State of Media Freedom in PH’ study by Freedom for Media, Freedom for All Network launched in early May 2020 has also offered a perspective on the struggles being faced by the media that have said to have impacted press freedom and free speech; thereby, also affecting the people’s right to know and access relevant information, especially during this pandemic. The report explained that red-tagging has been a strategy used to exert soft power against the press.

Time and again, we have cautioned, particularly the government, on the dangers of haphazardly labelling of persons and groups without sufficient proof. Red-tagging is a slippery slope as it may trigger a number of human rights violations, including harassment, unlawful arrests, torture, and threats to life.

We wish to remind the government that expressions of dissent and the freedom to speak on legitimate concerns without fear of reprisal are guaranteed rights by the 1987 Constitution as a feature of a democratic country.

The repeal of the Anti-Subversion Law in 1992 also meant that being part of the Communist Party of the Philippines is no longer illegal and that it further challenges their ideals to complete in a free market of ideas and be subjected to the scrutiny of open discourse.

The challenge before those who accuse is to prove allegations of any illegal act before fair and competent courts. Otherwise, peddling unfounded accusations is a practice of sowing disinformation, which should not be condoned.

We call on the government to extend their vigilance against peddlers of so-called ‘fake news’ in all aspects of governance and ensure equal protection of all persons under our laws.

The role then of the government is to uphold its mandate for truth, fairness, and justice for all.

At the same time, just as the government calls on everyone, including communist rebels, to help in addressing the pandemic, we expect that they too can focus on addressing the needs of many, especially the poor and vulnerable, instead of mischaracterising organisations and individuals who have also helped communities and are within the ambit of exercising their rights. ###