Duterte and NTF-ELCAC’s red-tagging vs Makabayan and Robredo, spate of attacks and arrests undermine integrity of elections

Photo by Michael Varcas/Philippine Star

The spate of arbitrary arrests, harassment, and red-tagging targeting activists and the political opposition threaten the integrity of the upcoming elections, human rights watchdog Karapatan warned on Wednesday — this following the arrest of youth peasant organizer Carlo Reduta through trumped-up charges under the Anti-Terrorism Act, the harassment and profiling against Cambaly National High School Assistant Principal Florante Lachica, the red-tagging posters against Vice President Leni Robredo in Leyte, the arrest of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan – Panay Secretary General Elmer Forro, President Rodrigo Duterte’s open red-tagging of the Makabayan coalition in his weekly briefing, and the red-tagging of Vice President Leni Robredo by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

“President Duterte’s blatant red-tagging of the Makabayan coalition and the NTF-ELCAC’s schemes against VP Leni Robredo not only make it evident that red-tagging is a State policy: they also expose the desperation of the Duterte administration, which is now working overtime to suppress the growing opposition to his tyrannical rule. With the recent spate of arbitrary arrests, harassment, and red-tagging targeting activists and the political opposition, we can only expect these attacks to worsen — and they threaten to undermine the integrity of our upcoming elections in May,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay stated.

On Tuesday night, March 29, 2022, President Duterte cited the claims of NTF-ELCAC Spokesperson Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy-Partosa during his taped “Talk to the People” briefing as he urged the public not to vote the party-lists from the Makabayan coalition — specifically naming Kabataan, Anakpawis, Bayan Muna, ACT Teachers, and Gabriela Women’s Party — and red-tagged them as “legal fronts” of the Communist Party of the Philippines. Badoy is currently facing various complaints from various groups before the Office of the Ombudsman.

President Duterte’s red-tagging of the Makabayan coalition came following a spate of arbitrary arrests, red-tagging, and harassment against activists and the opposition. For days, the NTF-ELCAC has been repeatedly linking Robredo with the Communist Party of the Philippines. On Monday, March 28, 2022, at least 50 streamers red-tagging Vice President Robredo were placed on trees and posts surrounding the Government Center in Palo, Leyte on — a day before her campaign sortie in the province. The posters were reportedly taken down in the afternoon after local supporters of the vice president complained to security guards.

On March 18, 2022, Carlo Reduta, an organizer from Coco Levy Funds Ibalik sa Amin, was arrested by elements of the Philippine Army’s 85th Infantry Battalion while he was engaging in field work with local farmers in Brgy. Cawayan, Gumaca, Quezon province. He was charged with alleged violations of Section 4 of the Anti-Terrorism Act as well as trumped-up charges of murder and frustrated murder and is currently detained at the Gumaca Municipal Police Station.

Meanwhile, on March 19, 2022, at around 8 p.m., Assistant Principal Lachica received a phone call from a female police officer in his residence in Rosario, La Union. The officer withheld her name but introduced herself as an officer from the Santo Tomas Police Station, as she asked if Lachica was willing to talk with her personally in his residence for their profiling of his membership in the Alliance of Concerned Teachers. Florante retorted that the profiling is already a form of harassment and red-tagging as he warned to report the incident to the Commission on Human Rights. The officer begged him not to file a report and asked for forgiveness before dropping the call.

On Tuesday, March 29, 2022, Forro was arrested on trumped-up murder and attempted murder charges in Cabatuan, Iloilo. The fabricated charges against Forro were filed in September 2020, as the military had linked him to an alleged encounter with the New People’s Army in Lambunao, Iloilo in April 2020.

Palabay said that these incidents “show a whole spectrum and pattern of attacks led by the NTF-ELCAC against the political opposition. Clearly, the Duterte administration is threatened by the growing number of people denouncing the rabid red-tagging rampage of the NTF-ELCAC and Duterte’s bloody record of human rights violations, war crimes, and fascist attacks against the people. They are now using everything in their arsenal — including the widely reviled terror law — to threaten anyone who stands against his murderous and tyrannical delusions. These attacks, however, only strengthen our resolve to fight back. We will not be cowered.”

“We call on all freedom-loving Filipinos to stand and denounce these attacks as we assert our call for elections free from harassment, threats, and red-tagging, which clearly aim to silence and divide us. Yet, we will not back down in our calls for justice and in demanding accountability. We call for the urgent release of Carlo Reduta and Elmer Forro and the dropping of the trumped-up charges against them. We assert the calls to junk the terror law and to abolish the NTF-ELCAC. These attacks must end now — and rest assured that we will hold President Duterte and his cabal of red-taggers accountable for their crimes against the people,” the Karapatan official ended.