IBON filed a complaint with the Office of the Ombudsman to hold government officials accountable for their malicious and baseless red-tagging of so many activists, individuals and groups especially since the creation of the so-called National Task Force to End Local Communism and Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) in 2018.
We focused on red-tagging because this is what the Duterte administration has been doing to IBON. Our complaint is just a small one of many efforts to make sure that government officials do not get away with their bad behavior. Bad behavior should be punished – and Major General Antonio Parlade, Jr, Presidential Communications and Operations Office (PCOO) Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy, and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon have been behaving very badly.
Gen. Parlade, Usec. Badoy and Gen. Esperon cannot just accuse activists of terrorism with only the spectral evidence in their minds. They cannot be allowed to use government resources for their malicious ends.
Yet, we are also conscious that there is more to red-tagging than mere vilification – it is the administration’s gateway drug to more vicious persecution and even violent attacks on activists.
Red-tagging is a prelude to illegal arrests of activists and raids on their offices, as with the five activists in Tacloban, Leyte a few days ago or the dozens more in Bacolod and Manila in October and November 2019. There have already been some 3,300 illegal arrests under the Duterte administration. Red-tagging has already been the death knell for far too many, with 293 activists already extrajudicially killed by suspected State forces.
It is easy to see red-tagging as merely the paranoid defense of an adoring government propagandist. Or the result of small-minded militarist thinking where every Leftist is an enemy to be neutralized. The comical claims and farcical arguments do not make sense otherwise.
Unfortunately, the red-tagging of the Duterte administration is much more and, clearly, just the first step of a much larger and more sinister agenda. The NTF-ELCAC claims counterinsurgency and even peace objectives but is really the hub of a great wheel of authoritarianism and repression.
The administration is out to stifle dissent and to put down all protest, focusing on the most determined, most vocal, and most organized individuals and groups in the country. Red-tagging paints activists as terrorists to portray them as threats, and disparages activism to keep people docile. It is creating a climate of fear and repression to intimidate all who dare challenge its rule.
In doing so, it is also closing what little democratic space there is in the country and defending the unjust social and economic status quo. The reason there are so many activists in the country among non-government organizations, students and youth, teachers, workers, farmers, fisherfolk, indigenous peoples, migrants, women, artists, journalists, lawyers, professionals, and elsewhere is because of widespread disillusionment with the system.
The Duterte administration is defending wealth and power under the guise of national security and anti-terrorism. Repression will of course not cure social and economic distress. It will just further damage the prospects for development and improving the lives of tens of millions of Filipinos seeking real change for the better.
Gen. Parlade and Usec. Badoy are fond of challenging activists to denounce so-called ‘communist-terrorists’ as if they have found an unassailable argument for their accusations. We are sane enough to not get caught up in their deluded fantasies. We do challenge them to prove that we are guilty of anything. They will not be able to, because we do not do anything illegal and have nothing to recant.
We however will continue to conspire to study the economy and, with the organized groups they so fear, continue to advocate for the radical reforms the Filipino people need and deserve. For a start, we defy and will overcome the red-tagging. ###