Rights defenders seek SC protection from state 'red-tagging'

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Rights defenders seek SC protection from state 'red-tagging'
Members of Karapatan, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) and Gabriela filed the petition for the issuance of writ of amparo and habeas data on Monday, May 6.
Karapatan / released

MANILA, Philippines — Rights group Karapatan Monday sought relief from the Supreme Court over the perceived state tagging of its members as being legal fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

Karapatan, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) and Gabriela filed a petition for writ of amparo and habeas data against accusations that their members are "fronts" of the Communist Party of the Philippines that they say bring threats to life, liberty and security.

They also asked the court to order the disclosure and destruction of all files or records on the petitioners gathered by the respondents.

“This petition invokes the jurisdiction and power of this Honorable Court to issue these protective writs in favor of Petitioners who are constantly threatened and harassed, red-tagged and maliciously terrorist-labeled only because of their advocacies in various fields of human rights work,” their petition, filed with the assistance of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, read.

Philippine jurisprudence defines red-tagging as “the act of labelling, branding, naming and accusing individuals and/or organizations of being left-leaning, subversives, communists or terrorists (used as) a strategy... by State agents, particularly law enforcement agencies and the military, against those perceived to be ‘threats’ or ‘enemies of the State.’”

EXPLAINER: Duterte’s red-tagging endangers activists – militant groups

Named as respondents are President Rodrigo Duterte, his spokesperson Salvador Panelo and his top military and Defense men.

Karapatan said that 48 of its rights workers were killed from 2001 to 2019, and three of those have fallen prey to extrajudicial killings under the Duterte administration. The group noted: “None of the perpetrators have been brought to court for their crimes.”

The rights group said that its officers and workers “became the subject of defamatory propaganda materials posted in public places in Metro Manila and nearby provinces and distributed to public.”

The petitioners said that the “red-tagging and terrorist-labeling” of Duterte and his men “became more systematic” through Executive Order No. 70 on Dec. 4 2018 that created national task force to end local communist armed conflict.

Through the creation of task force, the threats against the life, liberty and security of the petitioners were aggravated, as the government order “is an expression of a government policy directed against legitimate civil society organizations, activities and human rights defenders,” said the groups.

“The adverse effect of such red tagging has been recognized, since it has resulted in the harassment, intimidation, killings, abductions and even the filing of trumped up charges against them,” the petition further read.

Lawyers granted protection

Their filing came days after the SC ordered the government to explain red-tagging of the members of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers.

READ: Court of Appeals to hear NUPL plea over perceived state harassment, red-tagging

The SC ordered the government to file its comment before May 14, when the Court of Appeals was likewise directed to hear the NUPL plea for writ of amparo and habeas data.

The SC Public Information Office said Friday that the SC granted the lawyers’ plea for the said writs, but did not expound.

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