Protect lawyers and human rights defenders, stop red-tagging and threats against them

Karapatan today reiterated its support for the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), as the lawyers’ group filed a manifestation urging the Supreme Court to reconsider the Court of Appeals’ decision dismissing their petition for the writ of amparo and habeas data which was filed in 2019.

“While it is laudable that the Supreme Court issued a warning to a certain notorious red-tagger over her statements against Judge Marlo Magdoza-Malagar, we call on the Supreme Court to heed the call of NUPL for legal protection as their officers and members have faced dangers due to such nefarious practice and other human rights violations,” said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay.

Karapatan said that “the persistent red-tagging by former spokesperson of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) Lorraine Badoy-Partosa against NUPL President Atty. Edre Olalia, Public Interest Law Center’s Managing Counsel Atty. Rachel Pastores, and NUPL member Atty. Maria Sol Taule, also a legal counsel of Karapatan, is not only defamatory but openly incites harm and violence against them.”

“Olalia, Taule and Pastores, publicly known for their track record of providing excellent legal assistance to victims of human rights violations, were accused by Badoy-Partosa of exerting undue influence on Judge Magdoza-Malagar, which is a preposterous lie. Coupled with her vicious red-tagging of these lawyers are statements inciting harm on them, and these have to stop,” Palabay said.

Karapatan also noted that former Dean of Ateneo School of Government Antonio La Viña, Kabataan Partylist Rep. Raoul Manuel and Bayan Secretary General Renato Reyes have been repeatedly red-tagged as well by Badoy-Partosa and her co-anchors in their social media accounts and at their program at SMNI News.

“These shady individuals are dishing out lies and threats against upstanding human rights defenders, on a television network owned by someone who was indicted and is wanted for labor and sex trafficking in the US. Such practices continue, despite so many complaints filed against them before the Ombudsman, the Commission on Human Rights and UN Special Procedures,” said Palabay.

Reacting to Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla’s statement during the UN Human Rights Committee review of the Philippines in Geneva equating red-tagging with mere “criticism,” Karapatan said that they hope that the independent human rights experts in the Committee will see through Remulla’s “warped logic.”

In its 2020 report on the public inquiry regarding the situation of human rights defenders, the Commission on Human Rights deemed that red-tagging results in the public stigmatization and delegitimization of dissent and constitutes a grave threat to the lives, security and liberty of human rights defenders. The CHR also called on the members of the executive branch of government to desist from red-tagging and labelling defenders as terrorists or enemies of the state and to prohibit the nefarious practice.

UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders Mary Lawlor also stated in a report that red-tagging is a “context-specific death threat in the Philippines.”

“We must reject Justice Secretary Remulla’s justification that red-tagging by the government is a legitimate practice in a so-called democracy. The pattern of violations against those who have been red-tagged is clear – they face multiple threats, were arrested and jailed on trumped-up charges, or even killed and involuntarily disappeared. Nothing can justify incitement of violence or harm on human rights defenders and dissenters, especially by State forces,” Palabay concluded.