PNP 'art' tags activists as terrorists amid debate on anti-terrorism bill

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
PNP 'art' tags activists as terrorists amid debate on anti-terrorism bill
Detail of a social media card released by Police Regional Office-13 that has since been deleted.

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 5:50 p.m.) — Despite promises that the anti-terrorism bill would not target activists and critics, two of the national police's regional offices posted images accusing legal activist organizations of being communist fronts Sunday night, implying also that the bill pending President Duterte's signature would "put them out." 

Butuan City-headquartered Police Regional Office 13, on its official Facebook page, listed a number of activist organizations as "communist terrorists," including militant groups Anakbayan and League of Filipino Students along with Bayan Muna and Kabataan Party-lists. 

"The picture says it all," the caption reads in the post portraying the "Peace-loving Filipino" and the "Philippine government" putting out the "fire" of the "communist terrorist" by means of the anti-terrorism bill. Included in the supposed communist terrorist groups is the black flag used by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

Screenshot of a post on the PNP Pro13 Caraga Facebook page shows a meme redtagging a number of legal activist organizations.
Philstar.com screengrab

The post has since been taken down. 

An account called PNPBaguioStn4, which is followed by the Philippine National Police's official Twitter account, also published a post, singling out Kabataan party-list, which has one seat at the House of Representatives. 

The same account, in a post before Labor Day also accused the Alliance of Concerned Teachers, Gabriela Women's Party, Bayan Muna, League of Filipino Students, Kabataan Party-list, and Anakbayan of being terrorists.

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Both posts—which tag Police Gen. Archie Gamboa, PNP chief, and Police Brig. Gen. Rwin Pagkalinawan, PNP Cordillera regional director—are still up on the account. 

At a press briefing Monday, Gamboa said that violations of the national police's social media protocols could warrant criminal and administrative raps for erring cops. 

"There is an enhanced protocol on social media which should be observed by the members of PNP. They can be charged administratively and if the evidence would warrant, even criminal cases," he said.

The two images come despite both House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano (Taguig) and Rep. Jericho Nograles (Puwersa ng Bayaning Atleta party-list) having promised that contrary to the fears of many, the bill would not be used to clamp down on critics, activists, and militants. 

Under the bill, the Anti-Terrorism Council can approved the warrantless detention of a suspected terorrist for 14 days, extendable by an additional 10 days.


Activists and human rights workers have long been the target of 'red-tagging', which Philippine jurisprudence defines as "the act of labeling, 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."

The Commission on Human Rights has said that the practice "violates the constitutional guarantee of presumption of innocence and may have serious implications on the security and movement of individuals and groups involved," while members of activist groups have often stressed that criticizing the government, or even agreeing with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army on certain issues, is not the same thing as taking up arms against the government.

The Department of Interior and Local Government, which is a member of the Anti-Terrorism Council created by the Human Security Act of 2007, earlier assured the public that the law had enough safeguards against abuse. In the same breath, it also conflated legal activist groups with communist rebels. 

The PNP is a bureau of the DILG.

The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), which has been caught peddling misinformation against activists and journalists critical of the administration, has also accused a number of militant groups of being legal fronts for communist rebels.

In response to the posts by the PNP, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) take legal action against those behind the page for what it called its "crass and totally unprofessional" content. 

"This is obviously black propaganda. It is unethical for public officials to engage in such practices. This is the kind of climate where the anti-terror bill will be implemented. It is a climate of impunity and abuse of authority," Bayan's statement read. 

"We will not take this sitting down. The PNP Region 13 will be held to account," they added. 

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