Remulla and Lacson’s red-tagging of Robredo’s Cavite sortie should be an election offense

Photo by Michael Varcas/Philippine Star

Human rights alliance Karapatan agreed with retired Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner Rowena Guanzon that red-tagging should constitute an election offense as a form of threat or intimidation “especially when red-tagging is already proven to have deadly consequences,” this after Cavite 7th District Representative Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla and Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson’s red-tagged Vice President Leni Robredo’s supporters who attended her campaign sortie in Cavite.

“Red-tagging should not just be an election offense: it is considered a form of threat or intimidation precisely because red-tagging incites killings, and this is recognized by international bodies and independent human rights experts. Boying Remulla and Ping Lacson should be penalized and condemned for red-tagging Vice President Leni Robredo’s supporters in Cavite. They are putting thousands of people in danger,” Karapatan Deputy Secretary General Roneo Clamor stated.

In a DZRH radio show on Saturday, March 5, 2022, Remulla questioned the attendance in Robredo’s campaign sortie in Cavite and then claimed without any proof that the crowds who attended the sortie were “hakot” and were supposedly paid PHP 500 each. Robredo is running for president in the upcoming elections. He also claimed that many of the students and activists who attended the campaign sortie were supposedly “trained” by the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

Meanwhile, Lacson — one of Robredo’s rivals in the presidential race — tweeted on Sunday, March 6, 2022, an Inquirer article quoting Remulla’s baseless claims on Robredo’s campaign sortie and commented that forming a coalition government with the communist rebels would be “worrisome.” On the same day, Guanzon tweeted: “Red[-]tagging na naman? Luma na [‘yan!] And if [you] push it harder that is an election offense: intimidating, harassing campaigners or supporters.”

Threats, intimidation or putting others at a disadvantage in participating in a campaign are election offenses under the Omnibus Election Code. After drawing flak for his tweet, Lacson then tweeted a denial the following day, March 7, 2022: “I never red-tagged anybody. I was simply warning those concerned to be wary of a possible coalition government with a movement whose sole objective is to seize power.”

Clamor asserted, however, that “both Remulla and Lacson’s statements are blatant red-tagging through and through. Remulla is extending the Anti-Terrorism Council’s arbitrary and deadly terrorist-labelling to Robredo’s supporters by linking them, particularly students and activists, to the NDFP. This is unsurprising: Remulla is a notorious red-tagger and has been a loyal lackey of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict in Congress.”

“Lacson’s denial is just a cop-out when his so-called warning is tantamount to an insinuation — especially when he did so while sharing and thereby parroting Remulla’s baseless claims. More than a clear effort to discredit Robredo, Remulla and Lacson’s red-tagging endangers and threatens the lives of her supporters. Just last year, labor leader Emmanuel Asuncion was red-tagged and murdered in Cavite during the Bloody Sunday raids. Any form of red-tagging should not be taken lightly,” he continued.

In June 2020, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, stated that for decades, red-tagging “has been a persistent and powerful threat to civil society and freedom of expression” in the Philippines; Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, stated in her December 2020 report that “being ‘tagged’ as ‘red’, or communist, is a serious threat to defenders, and that some defenders who have been so tagged have been murdered.”

“Red-tagging — especially from incumbent officials and candidates vying for the highest position in the country — should be condemned and denounced to the highest degree. Remulla and Lacson should be penalized and held accountable not only for brazenly violating the Omnibus Election Code for their red-tagging but for threatening the lives and safety of thousands of people. We call on all freedom-loving Filipinos to denounce red-taggers in the elections this May,” the Karapatan official ended.