Karapatan: Red-tagging used to incite violence vs HRDs by branding them as enemies of the State

Today, we face the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security to assert that red-tagging is anathema to democracy and human rights.

Far from being harmless statements, red-tagging puts people’s lives, liberties, and security on the line when they brand human rights defenders, activists, dissenters, and critics of the government’s murderous and anti-people policies as “enemies of the State” — thereby making us targets of all forms of State violence, from threats and harassment, surveillance, illegal arrests and trumped-up charges, to cold-blooded and brutal extrajudicial killings. Many of our colleagues have fallen victim to these murders after being rabidly and publicly red-tagged by the police and the military.

President Rodrigo Duterte made this clear last night when he called human rights defenders as his “enemy” in the sham and bloody drug war. In the past, President Duterte has repeatedly called Karapatan as an organization of demons for criticizing his brutal programs. For President Duterte and the rabid red-tagging rampage of his bloodthirsty hounds in the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, anyone who defends human rights, monitors the government’s compliance to national and international human rights obligations, and fights for social justice are being called names — enemies, demons, criminals, terrorists — to discredit our work and publicly vilify us as part of the government’s failed counterinsurgency campaigns.

With the draconian Anti-Terrorism Act in full effect, such dangerous rhetoric will only translate to more brazen attacks on people’s rights and fundamental freedoms as President Duterte further consolidates his power and places the country in what can only be described as a de facto martial law situation.

No matter how they deny it through layers and layers of feeble and stupid lies, what is clear is that red-tagging is clearly a State policy, and red-tagging is fueling the rapidly deteriorating human rights crisis in the country. Various local and international human rights experts have condemned it. Why, then, is the government continuing this deadly practice and policy that directly infringes on people’s rights and fundamental freedoms? How many more human rights defenders, activists, and government critics must die for the government to stop this senseless campaign of red-tagging?

The government must end this murderous policy — and we call on all freedom-loving Filipinos to resist red-tagging and the Duterte administration’s assault on human rights, our hard-won freedoms, and our democracy. Red-tagging wants to instill fear in order to silence dissent and to stymy the growing resistance to President Duterte’s tyrannical rule, but we will not be cowed. We will continue to fight back.

Cristina Palabay
Karapatan Secretary General