Another wave of red-tagging targets human rights lawyer in Mindanao and Karapatan officer in Cebu

“In light of the Court of Appeals 14th Division’s dismissal of Karapatan’s amparo and habeas data petition, more cases of red-tagging have been reported in various parts of the country. Karapatan Central Visayas chairperson Phoebe Zoe Sanchez, also a professor in UP, recently received a death threat and women human rights lawyers in Mindanao were harassed in their home. People’s lives are on the line and the Duterte regime’s vindictive and fascist policies continue to fuel and fund the attacks directed at human rights defenders and progressive groups,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said.

In Cagayan de Oro City, human rights activist and lawyer Beverly Musni, whose daughters are also lawyers, reported that a malicious streamer tagging her and several other persons as members and recruiters of the New People's Army (NPA) regional unit committee was placed outside her house in a subdivision.

Known as legal representatives of political prisoners in court, the Musni family has experienced incidents of red-tagging before, but according to Beverly, attacks and malicious materials placed on their property has never happened before. As per initial reports, Beverly’s house helper noticed a man pointing a flashlight towards their home on the evening of June 26, 2019. A day after, on the 27th, they noticed the malicious streamer placed within the premises of their house.

Meanwhile, on the same day in Cebu, Karapatan Central Visayas Chairperson Dr. Phoebe Zoe Sanchez received two death threats that was sent by an unknown individual with mobile number 09883127563. In the messages, Sanchez was blatantly threatened with death – “Mrs. phoebe sanchez inihap na lang adlaw nimo dinhi sa kalibutan condolence sa imong pamilya (Mrs. phoebe sanchez your days in this world was already numbered, condolence to your family)” and “Phoebe sanchez rest in peace.”

“Karapatan strongly condemns these orchestrated attacks on human rights activists. These are indicative of a worsening scenario where no one is spared. These incidents endanger the lives, liberty and security of human rights advocates and although perpetrators cowardly hide behind anonymity, their intentions of silencing dissent remains clear,” Palabay added.

According to the Karapatan official, if lawyers and leaders can easily be subjected to harassment and intimidation, then the government can effortlessly harm other human rights advocates working in areas outside Metro Manila. It can be remembered that since the start of June 2019, a number of activists and human rights defenders were killed by either suspected soldiers or police in various regions such as Bicol and Negros.

“We reiterate that these are not isolated incidents, but are part of an elaborate and sinister plan and attempt to discredit, demoralize, and silence human rights advocates. We have seen the pattern of how red-tagging lays the pretext for more attacks, even resulting to cases of extrajudicial killings. In the same vein, we will continue to exhaust all mechanisms to provide protection for human rights defenders while tirelessly standing against this government’s iron hand. There is an infrastructure of impunity in this country that ensures the perpetrators remain scot-free, but there is also a movement intent on exacting justice and accountability for all the crimes committed by this murderous government,” Palabay concluded.