Red-tagging, attacks on rights and environmental defenders intensify amid looming enactment of terror bill

Human rights watchdog Karapatan sounded alarm over the “increasingly worsening attacks on human rights activists and environmental defenders” amid the looming passage of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 as the rights group decried the military’s red-tagging of Josephine Parra-Porquia, wife of slain human rights activist Jose Reynaldo “Jory” Porquia, as well as the arrest of seven anti-mining Lumad leaders in Misamis Oriental.

“Legislators who rabidly want the Anti-Terrorism Act enacted are claiming that the proposed measure will not be used against activists and dissenters but the police and military are out here baring the law’s true purpose as a legal weapon against dissent without an ounce of shame by harassing communities as well as intensifying the red-tagging of activists and facilitating their arrests on trumped-up charges,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay stated.

In a Regional Peace and Order Council meeting last June 19, Josephine Parra-Porquia was wrongly tagged as the head of the Regional White Area Committee of the communist movement in Panay Island in the “Threat Situation” presentation of the Philippine Army’s 3rd Infantry Division — a tag which she has strongly denied. Palabay said that “the sheer fact that the military is red-tagging Josephine Parra-Porquia while she and her family are still grieving over the cold-blooded tokhang-style murder of Jory Porquia is truly abhorrent and despicably cruel.”

“The military’s penchant for red-tagging poses serious risks to the lives and security of activists. Being publicly and maliciously branded by the military as a member — let alone a leader — of the communist movement is a dangerous threat: this vilification makes Josephine Parra-Porquia a target of arrests, or worse, State-sponsored violence and killings,” she continued.

The Karapatan officer also condemned the arrest of Datu Reynaldo Ayuma, Pablita Hilogon, Glenn Hilogon, Bambi Hilogon, Toto Hilogon, Jun-jun Ayoman, and Jesson Langka in Purok 6, Barangay Blanco, Balingasag, Misamis Oriental around 3:30 a.m. last Friday, June 26, during a police and military raid in the community. They were arrested after the police and military allegedly found magazine clips of high-powered rifles during the illegal searches conducted in four houses in the community.

“Datu Reynaldo Ayuma is a fierce environmental defender and has been at the forefront of campaigns against corporate mining and logging in their ancestral domains. In fighting for their rights for land and self-determination, indigenous communities are being subjected to militarization and indigenous environmental defenders are being tagged falsely as ‘rebels’ or ‘terrorists’ before they are either arrested or killed by State or State-backed forces. The Philippines is already considered the deadliest country for environmental defenders — and this will only worsen into worse levels if the Anti-Terrorism Act is passed,” Palabay averred.

“Karapatan urgently calls for the release of Datu Reynaldo Ayuma and the six Lumad. We also decry the military’s continuing harassment of the Porquia family. Darker days are brewing for human rights and environmental defenders if the Anti-Terrorism Act is signed or lapses into law. We must muster a strong resistance to block this monstrous piece of legislation and to oppose Duterte’s fascist dictatorship. These threats and attacks will not stop if we do not stand up and fight back,” she ended.