More raps filed vs NTF-ELCAC execs over red-tagging, fake news

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
More raps filed vs NTF-ELCAC execs over red-tagging, fake news
Photo release shows Rep. Sarah Elago (Kabataan Party-list) speaking to reporters at the Office of the Ombudsman on Monday, December 7.
Release / Kabataan Party-list

MANILA, Philippines — Rep. Sarah Elago (Kabataan Party-list) filed administrative charges before the Office of the Ombudsman against ranking executives within the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict for, she said, spreading false quotations and blatantly vilifying her.

Accompanied by lawyer Antonio La Viña, the House lawmaker filed the complaint against Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade, Presidential Communications Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy, intelligence chief Alex Monteagudo, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon,  all members of the NTF-ELCAC.

Her complaint also included Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.   

The NTF-ELCAC, a composite group created under the Office of the President, has been called out in the past for using fake quote-card graphics on its social media channels, and spreading false allegations against broadcast giant ABS-CBN Corp.  

READ: Bayan: Why is the burden on us to prove we're not a rebel front?

"The NTF-ELCAC has been using people's money to maliciously attack progressive individuals and groups, including the youth," said Elago in a statement sent to reporters, highlighting that while some of these attacks were done through personal accounts of government officials, they are still backed by state institutions as they are often signed with the government titles of the officials or accompanied by a logo of the police or the military.

“By red-tagging us, the government through the NTF-ELCAC not only discredits our legislative work and diverts attention away from pressing issues. It also puts at risk our lives, and the lives of those they work with," the youth representative also said.

NTF-ELCAC using resources to attack groups instead of achieving peace

In her formal complaint, Elago contended that instead of achieving "inclusive and lasting peace" as it is mandated to by Executive Order No. 70,  the national task force is using its resources "to maliciously attack and malign progressive individuals and groups, including the youth." 

Even Elago, a sitting member of the House of Representatives, has found herself on the receiving end of accusations from the military and the national police, warning the Senate panel on national defense that the practice has only brought violence to those accused, a claim echoed by Senate lawmakers. 

Senators have said that the proposed P19-billion 2021 budget for the NTF-ELCAC will likely remain intact going into next year, though the upper chamber has been urged to re-allocate the task force's funds to healthcare, jobs, and aid for workers who were adversely affected by the coronavirus pandemic. 

"Despite the party-list’s legitimate status; its legislative efforts including fighting for measures to democratize access to education, upholding academic freedom, and advancing student’s rights and welfare, I–and many of the members of my party-list –am still continuously being red-tagged by Respondents, claiming that the party-list is a front of the Communist  Party of the  Philippines," Elago's complaint reads.   

"[S]tate agents continue to attack our name and our members’ safety. The filing of this case is one way for the youth to strike back against these attacks," Kabataan Party-list also said in its statement. 

Journalists: NTF-ELCAC red-tagging a 'devious form of misinformation'

This is not the first complaint filed against the NTF-ELCAC. 

RELATED: Karapatan files raps vs anti-communist task force

On Friday, December 4, local human rights monitor Karapatan also filed a complaint-affidavit against the group, saying it should be held criminally and administratively liable for acts that malign, vilify and baselessly red-tag the group’s officers and members.

Red-tagging, in the dissent of  Justice Marivic Leonen in the case of Zarate v. Aquino, has been  defined 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’.”

Also on Monday, journalism educators and practitioners in a separate joint statement slammed the NTF-ELCAC for the same practice after alternative media network AlterMidya was also red-tagged in the same Senate hearing without proof. 

The statement was jointly signed by the Asian Center for Journalism at Ateneo de Manila University, the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, the Consortium on Democracy and Disinformatic, the Foundation for Media Alternatives, Mindanews, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, the Philippine Press Institute, Rappler, the University of the Philippines Department of Journalism, and VERA Files. 

"Other institutions red-tagged have been systematically harassed or demonized; other individuals, especially women, have been trolled, detained, assaulted, even killed," the joint statement reads. 

"The network has done its journalism despite great risk, including death threats and a massive distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack. We therefore view this latest act of red-tagging with the utmost concern. It renders these community journalists even more vulnerable to abuse and violence, at the exact time we need more of their journalism." — with reports from Xave Gregorio 

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