Statement of the Commission on Human Rights expressing concern over the reported distribution of ‘red-tagging’ pamphlets at a seminar in Rizal

Statement of the Commission on Human Rights expressing concern over the reported distribution of ‘red-tagging’ pamphlets at a seminar in Rizal

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) expresses deep concern over the alleged distribution of red-tagging pamphlets by the members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) at a seminar held at Taytay Senior High School.

According to a report, the Kabataan party-list mentioned the 80th Infantry Battalion (IB) as the one involved in the dissemination of the pamphlets at Taytay Senior High School. Screenshots of said pamphlets were shared with the media, saying that recruiters of the Communist Party of the Philippines – New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) “could be found at protests,” and are “teaching people to despise government.”

The Commission reiterates that protests and the right to peacefully dissent are fundamental human rights that the State must recognise. Article III, Section 4 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution states that “no law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.”

Moreover, Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) governs the right of peaceful assembly, providing that: The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognised. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order, the protection of public health or morals, or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

Participating in protest and dissent are forms of public expression used to voice grievances, not to identify themselves as part of an insurgency or communist armed rebellion. Regardless of political orientation and ideology, participating in a protest is an exercise of fundamental human rights, allowing individuals to express their concerns and demand change.

Meanwhile, we take note of the National Security Council’s (NSC) response, which refuted the allegations and stated that it is only for informing students about indicators that they are being recruited by communist rebel group organizers. The statement underscored that such seminar is part of “community information programs to protect vulnerable sectors from terrorist recruitment and exploitation.” The Commission acknowledges the importance of protecting the welfare and safety of students. However, it is essential that these efforts do not stigmatize legitimate expressions of dissent.

While the CHR is one with the State in preserving and protecting the country’s peace and security through the adoption of policies countering the threats of terrorism and underground armed rebellion, we believe that it is still essential to raise awareness about the potential dangers of arbitrary labeling. We should also focus on sustainable solutions and measures that address these problems, ensuring that security efforts do not infringe on the rights and freedoms of individuals.

It must be stressed that the Supreme Court earlier declared the act of red-tagging as a “threat to life, liberty and security” as it arbitrarily connects individuals and organisations to the underground armed movement. This act often results in surveillance, enforced disappearances, and even extrajudicial killings, as individuals and groups become targets for violence and harassment perpetrated by various forces.

In line with this, we urge everyone, particularly our security forces and duty-bearers, to refrain from disseminating misconstrued information that could hinder the freedom to protest or compromise the safety of individuals exercising their democratic rights.