Karapatan: red-tagging is a State policy through the NTF-ELCAC

Human rights watchdog Karapatan asserted that red-tagging is “clearly and undeniably a State policy,” disagreeing with the Senate committee on national defense’s conclusion in its report that “red-tagging is not among the pre-conceived policies sought to be implemented” under Executive Order No. 70, which created the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

“Branding and publicly vilifying individuals — particularly activists, human rights defenders, and government critics — as ‘communists’ or ‘terrorists’ has long been part and parcel of the government’s counterinsurgency campaigns. Such policy has been and is still being used to facilitate brutal forms of human rights violations, especially the gruesome murders of activists. Denying that red-tagging is a State policy is like denying that the sun rises in the East,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said.

While agreeing with the Senate committee report’s conclusion that the public pronouncements of Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. “could never be disassociated from his position as the official spokesperson of [the] NTF-ELCAC,” Palabay nonetheless averred that “portraying Parlade’s red-tagging rampage as mere ‘negligence’ that is ‘counterproductive’ to the NTF-ELCAC only serves whitewash the fact of the matter: red-tagging is a policy of the NTF-ELCAC. Parlade’s lies are the NTF-ELCAC’s ‘whole-of-nation approach’ at work, and the entire government machinery is being mobilized for red-tagging through it.”

“No less than the resolution recently issued by Cordillera Administrative Region’s Regional Law Enforcement Coordinating Committee ‘enjoining’ law enforcement agencies and local government units to employ tokhang style against ‘left-leaning’ personalities exemplifies this — that red-tagging is not only a State policy, but it is a policy that openly incites violence. Even the passage of the Anti-Terrorism Act has emboldened Parlade as well as police and military units to brand journalists reporting on the government’s abuses as ‘terrorists’ by threatening to charge them under the draconian law,” she stated.

The Karapatan official continued that “far from being able to ‘address the crux of insurgency in the country,’ as the report purports, the NTF-ELCAC has only brazenly militarized a civilian bureaucracy and instituted a virtual military junta whose approach to the communist insurgency is State repression, violence, and terrorism rather than actually addressing and resolving the root causes of rebellion and armed conflict in the country. If it is indeed the ‘most effective anti-insurgency program’ as the report claims, why is the NTF-ELCAC instead going after civilians and legal organizations?”

“Armed conflict can never be resolved without pursuing lasting peace based on justice, and such justice can only come with addressing the roots of rebellion, ensuring accountability and reparations for victims of human rights abuses, and definitely not through the NTF-ELCAC’s militaristic thrust and red-tagging campaign. With Parlade’s ‘negligence,’ according to none other than the Senate committee’s conclusions, Parlade should be fired. But firing one red-tagger is not enough,” Palabay asserted.

“The NTF-ELCAC must be abolished and the Anti-Terrorism Act must be junked. Moreover, the State policy of red-tagging — which has been used throughout history to suppress dissent and instigate violence — should be thrown down the garbage bin,” she ended.