Karapatan files complaint against gov’t officials engaged in red-tagging

On December 4, 2020, days after the last Senate committee hearing on red-tagging, Karapatan filed criminal and administrative charges against the ranking officials of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) and former PCOO Undersecretary Mocha Uson. The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) serves as Karapatan’s counsel in this case.

During the filing of charges before the Office of the Ombudsman, Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said Hermogenes Esperon Jr., Antonio Parlade Jr., Lorraine Marie T. Badoy, and Esther Margaux “Mocha” Uson should be held criminally and administratively liable for the acts that malign, vilify and baselessly red-tag her along with Karapatan’s officers and members.

Palabay said red-tagging of activists and progressive groups has led to the killings of human rights defenders, enforced disappearances, illegal arrests and detention, torture, criminalization of their jobs and advocacies, and other defilements of their civil and political rights.

Parlade was earlier quoted in an article by the Philippine News Agency (PNA) entitled “Denounce Reds over brutal slay of CAFGU member, Karapatan told”, written by Priam Nepomuceno and published on June 2, 2019, alleging that Karapatan has a connection with the New People’s Army.

“On March 7, 2019, Respondent Parlade, in a poster shared from the account of the Civil Relations Service AFP, referred to KARAPATAN as a terrorist front organization, told the European Union (EU) and the United Nations (UN) falsehoods with regards to the human rights situation in the country, and sought material support from EU member states on the basis of these false claims,” the 40-page complaint said.

“Thereafter, on April 9, 2019, Respondent Parlade utilized the social media as his platform to spread lies against me and my organization KARAPATAN. In a story published by Kalinaw News in its website, Respondent Parlade was quoted.”

The complaint also cited that Parlade continued red-tagging KARAPATAN, “that even our support for the calls for press freedom insofar as the franchise renewal issue of ABS-CBN is concerned was smeared with malicious and baseless accusations against us.”

The complaint said the respondents’ red-tagging of Palabay, KARAPATAN and its members and officers violates the principle of distinction under international and domestic humanitarian law.

The Philippine government is a party to the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL). One of the hallmark principles of International Humanitarian Law is the principle of distinction, which restricts targets of attacks to military objectives only to protect civilian persons and objects.

“Both parties affirmed the applicability of the 1949 Geneva Conventions and its 1977 Additional Protocols, which are main IHL treaties. The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court has parallel provisions and principles on this,” the complaint said.

Under the complaint, Palabay and Karapatan said red-tagging constitutes the Crime against Humanity of Persecution.

Republic Act No. 9851 (RA 9851) or the Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide, and Other Crimes Against Humanity penalizes the crime against humanity of persecution.

Under Section 3(p) of RA 9851, persecution refers to “the intentional and severe deprivation of fundamental rights contrary to international law by reason of identity of the group or collectivity.”

“This crime against humanity is committed when there is persecution “against any identifiable group or collectivity on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious, gender, sexual orientation, or other grounds, committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population,” the complaint said.

Under the complaint, Karapatan and Palabay said the government officials also violated the Anti- Graft and Corrupt Practices Act by doing acts that “are contrary to law or regulation; are unreasonable, unfair, oppressive or discriminatory; and are inconsistent with the general course of an agency's functions, though in accordance with law proceed from a mistake of law or an arbitrary ascertainment of facts; are in the exercise of discretionary powers but for an improper purpose; or are otherwise irregular, immoral or devoid of justification.”

“Respondents acted with manifest partiality and evident bad faith when they recklessly engaged in red-tagging me and KARAPATAN publicly, absent any competent, admissible, much less credible evidence to prove their claims,” the complainants said.

“Lastly, the red-tagging and vilification against us have indubitably already caused us undue injury not only by threatening our lives, liberty, security but also discrediting our work and advocacy and besmirching our reputations.”