Nothing wrong with anti-NPA tarpaulins, Año says
In this Feb. 18, 2019 photo, DILG Secretary Eduardo Año addresses questions from the press. Cagadas Jr.
Nothing wrong with anti-NPA tarpaulins, Año says
( - October 25, 2020 - 10:17am

MANILA, Philippines — Interior Secretary Eduardo Año found no issue with tarpaulins carrying messages denouncing communist rebels or terrorist groups.

"The expressions of sentiment against the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front atrocities are free speech and are legally protected under the Constitution... It is just right that people denounce them for their crimes against the people," Año is quoted as saying in reports. 

“If you are not a member of the CPP/NPA/NDF, then you have nothing to worry about. How can these be ‘red-tagging’ when they are Communists or Reds by their own admission?” he also said.

The former military general is a member of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, the government's anti-communist task force which has been the source of disinformation against government critics over the coronavirus pandemic, having been caught in a lie more than once.

"Unmasking these groups controlled and directed by the Communist Party of the Philippines through party branches embedded in them is the solemn duty of government. Otherwise, we will not be doing our duty,” he said.

“I believe these tarpaulins are mere expressions of citizens or certain groups that they are fed up with abuses and atrocities perpetrated by the CPP/NPA/NDF. I welcome such kind of expression to send the message to the CPP/NPA/NDF that they are not welcome in the national capital region, just like what other provinces, cities, and municipalities all over the country,” he added. 

While the sentiment itself is not harmful, senators pointed out earlier that it sets a dangerous climate for those who have already been red-tagged—some by no less than Año's DILG—and may only lead to violence.

"Unmasking" communist members is also different from putting the lives of members of legal activist groups in danger by publicly accusing them of being armed rebels without proof as NTF-ELCAC spokesperson Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade did on Friday. 

Support for and membership in an activist group does not mean support for or membership in the Communist Party of the Philippines or the New People's Army but the government has been pushing this narrative as early as 2017, when President Rodrigo Duterte accused transport group Piston, human rights group Karapatan and labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno of committing rebellion.

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.’”

The Commission on Human Rights has also issued a warning against the practice of red-tagging, which it said "violates the constitutional guarantee of presumption of innocence and may have serious implications on the security and movement of individuals and groups involved." — Franco Luna 

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