NTF-ELCAC officers, Mocha Uson sued over red-tagging
Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay on December 4 filed a complaint-affidavit against three officers of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict and OWWA official Mocha Uson over their red-tagging. Also in the photo is BAYAN NCR Secretary-General Raymond Palatino, a former Kabataan paty-list representative.

NTF-ELCAC officers, Mocha Uson sued over red-tagging

Kristine Joy Patag (Philstar.com) - December 4, 2020 - 2:14pm

MANILA, Philippines — Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay on Friday filed criminal and administrative complaints against three ranking members of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict over their continuous red-tagging — the practice of labeling dissenters and activists as rebels, terrorists or enemies of the state.

Palabay, through the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, accused National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. and Communications Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy — both are NTF-ELCAC spokespersons — of violating the international and domestic humanitarian law for their repeated red-tagging.

Palabay, who filed the complaint at the Office of the Ombudsman, also said red-tagging constitutes a violation of Republic Act 3019, or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, saying the accusations cause undue injury to her and her colleagues from Karapatan.

Palabay said she and Karapatan members “have experienced relentless attacks from the following respondents in the form of malicious red/terrorist-tagging or red-baiting, which consists of baseless and dangerous imputations of being a front organization of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army.”

Associate Justice Marvic Leonen defined red-tagging in the 2005 case of Zarate v Alvarez 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.’”

Also named as respondent is Overseas Workers Welfare Administration Undersecretary Mocha Uson, whom Palabay said repeatedly posted statements alluding to Karapatan’s supposed connections to the CPP-NPA on her Facebook page.

Uson has said in the past she has administrators to handle her Mocha Uson Blog Facebook page.

Violation of International Humanitarian Law

Palabay said that red-tagging is deemed a violation of the Section 6(h) of Republic Act 9851 or the Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide and Other Crimes Against Humanity.

The provision holds that "persecution against a group on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious, gender, sexual orientation or other groups that are impermissible under international law" fall under “other crimes against humanity.”

Palabay said Parlade in June 2019 told Karapatan to denounce NPA and accused the human rights alliance group of being a terrorist front organization. Parlade’s accusations were put on posters published online by Facebook pages of police stations and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

She also said IHL applies in the prevailing armed conflict between the CPP-NPA-NDF, which was also recognized under the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and IHL in 1998.

The government however earlier said the CARHRIHL is deemed terminated following the collapse of peace talks.

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Principle of distinction

Palabay also pointed out that the principle of distinction — between civilians and combatants — is a hallmark of the IHL and should be respected, “regardless of nature of conflict.”

“Our counsels explained to us that ‘red-tagging’ or such other similar acts or expressions can be considered a violation of the principle of distinction. Through red-tagging, civilians are deemed to be affiliated with or even members of the CPP or NPA. Consequently, red-tagged civilians become targets of different forms of attacks and even armed violence by State forces,” the complaint-affidavit read.

Palabay said she and her colleagues and their families fear for their lives, and their advocacies and activities have also been restricted due to concerns on their security.

READ: Killing of Zara Alvarez highlights dangers of red-tagging — CHR

She stressed that with the NTF-ELCAC’s public declaration of civilians as part of the CPP-NPA, they can be “quite wrongly, considered by State forces as combatants and proper targets of armed attacks.”

“Far from fulfilling its duty to comply with the principle of distinction, respondents have publicly red-tagged me and my organization, dangerously depicting us as combatants who can be targeted in armed hostilities,” she also said.

In May 2019, Karapatan and other rights groups ran to the SC to ask for a writ of amparo and habeas data against perceived state-sponsored attacks, but the case was dismissed by the Court of Appeals. The rights groups have since elevated their appeal to the SC.

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