Rights defenders decry red tagging as form of rights violation

Clamor said the attempts to discredit human rights defenders and progressive organisations aim to prevent them from pursuing justice for the victims of rights violations.

By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – Various groups held a protest in front of Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Sept. 12 just as the government officials faced the public inquiry on the alleged rights violations perpetrated by state forces against human rights defenders.

The groups unveiled what they call as “rogue gallery” of human rights violators.

The CHR is conducting the week-long National Inquiry on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in the country to address the complaints filed by various groups before the Commission.

On its fourth day, military and police officials, including retired uniformed men appointed by President Duterte in his Cabinet, were invited in the said public inquiry which started on Sept. 9.

At the hearing, National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) Legal Officer Melanie Albores denied that state forces are behind the red-tagging of groups and individuals. She said it was the “former rebels” who posted the streamers accusing individuals and organizations like Karapatan as front organizations of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army.

Karapatan Deputy Secretary General Roneo Clamor said in a statement, “This vindictive government is out to get anyone who remains critical of its reign of terror.”

He added that human rights defenders are killed, illegally arrested, harassed incessantly through various forms of red-tagging. Even Duterte, he said, has repeatedly red-tagged Karapatan seven times on national television, referring them as “terrorists, communists, devils, and enemies of the State.”

“Despite this blatant red-tagging, the government washes its hands when human rights defenders are killed, reasoning that it did not pull the trigger. Yet it has surreptitiously laid down the pretext to the targeting of human rights defenders. Thus, red-tagging, in itself, should be considered a violation; a threat to one’s life, liberty and security,” Clamor said.

Repeated accusations have been repeatedly answered

“The lawyer of [Gen. Hermogenes] Esperon opened his speech by saying that red-tagging does not exist, only to start red-tagging organisations a few minutes later,” Clamor said, pertaining to Brigadier General Raymundo Acardo, the chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Human Rights Office.

Clamor laughed at the alleged “proof” cited by government representatives during the hearing such as the inclusion of Karapatan in a video by CPP founder Jose Maria Sison in 1980s, membership to the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS), refusal to condemn and investigate alleged acts of CPP-NPA.

“To this, we have repeatedly answered: We were established in 1995. Our financial reports to the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Bureau of Internal Revenue will bear out the lie that we are funding the NPA,” Clamor said.

Clamor said that Karapatan is a proud member of the ILPS, “as it has been a strong pillar of unity among oppressed peoples across the globe.”

ILPS is an anti-imperialist organization with members from different countries around the globe including European, Latin American, and other Asian countries.

Discrediting human rights defenders and progressive organizations

Clamor said the attempts to discredit human rights defenders and progressive organisations aim to prevent them from pursuing justice for the victims of rights violations.

He said the creation of the National Task Force (NTF) to End Local Communist Insurgency, which was formed under Executive Order No. 70 in 2018, serves this purpose.

The NTF is making rounds in local and international arena openly campaigning against Karapatan, Ibon Foundation, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, Alliance of Concerned Teachers, among others. National Security Adviser and NTF Vice Chairman Hermogenes Esperon has also formally asked the European Union to stop the funding of these organizations.

“Their disinformation campaign is endless. However, their words have profound implications to the lives and work of human rights defenders. Lawyers, peasant advocates, paralegals, and many others have been killed because of such malicious and false campaigns,” said Clamor.

“The focus should not only be on who pulled the trigger, but should also touch on the context of the incident. Doing this will reveal a systematic policy and orchestrated campaign to discredit human rights organizations, to prevent them from pursuing allegations and documenting cases of human rights violations,” Clamor added.

In a statement, CHR Commissioner Roberto Eugenio T. Cadiz said the “Commission especially notes serious allegations concerning government attempts to silence and intimidate human rights defenders through the use of the judicial system, including the filing of criminal cases based on fabricated charges of terrorism, sedition, and other crimes against the security of the state.”

“Our mandate is to investigate and document State-perpetrated violations, which emanates from the fact that the State is the primary duty-bearer in the promotion, protection and realization of human rights. The government has its own mechanisms to investigate, and they are free to do so,” Cadiz said in a statement.

The CHR said the public inquiry is also a platform for both the government and various human rights defenders to engage in a dialogic, non-adversarial space, where parties can agree to respect human rights and uphold the rule of law.

At the end of the inquiry, the CHR intends to present recommendations to the government and other sectors, for respecting human rights, upholding the rule of law, and ensuring a vibrant democracy. ()

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