FLAG: Red-tagging of lawmakers, activists subverts 'already weak' justice system

FLAG: Red-tagging of lawmakers, activists subverts 'already weak' justice system
In this May 15, 2019 photo, FLAG lawyers Chel Diokno and Erin Tañada attend a hearing at the Pasig Regional Trial Court.
Photo from lawyer Arnel Casanova, file

MANILA, Philippines — The Free Legal Assistance Group rallied behind Rep. Carlos Zarate (Bayan Muna) amid the “baseless and malicious” red-tagging of President Rodrigo Duterte and the military.

FLAG in a statement signed by veteran rights lawyer Chel Diokno said the actions of Duterte, the highest official of the land, “only subvert and hurt our already weak justice system.”

Duterte, in two of his recent public addresses on government’s COVID-19 response, trained his ire on members of the Makabayan bloc at the House of Representatives, zeroing in on Zarate.

RELATED: Citing heightened red-tagging, Makabayan bloc calls on SC to halt anti-terror law implementation

On November 30, Duterte labeled Zarate a communist, an allegation that the lawmaker denied and that is, in any case, not illegal.

The president again singled out the solon in his December 7 address.

"The act of a soldier [New Peoples’ Army], is the act of Zarate, a congressman," Duterte said, referring to a revived allegation of a conspiracy against the goverment.

This, while the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict continues to link the Makabayan bloc and other activists to the Communist Party of the Philippines.

FLAG stressed that Duterte and the military are making these baseless accusations at a time “when even government officials, judges, lawyers, and human rights advocates are being killed with impunity under Duterte’s rule, such red-tagging is irresponsible and dangerous.”

The lawyers’ group stressed that red-tagging is often a prelude to human rights violations such as harassment, unlawful arrest, torture, and threats to life.

"FLAG has seen this in its decades of work: that it is when we are scared into silence that our rights are most under threat. They will try to do this by making an example of those who remain outspoken against Duterte," they added.

Diokno, who ran for senator in the 2019 elections, has himself been a target of Duterte's speeches, where the president commented on his teeth.

The group, formed in 1974 during the Marcos dictatorship, urged the public to resist attempts to intimidate Filipinos into silence. “Our rights and freedoms hang in the balance,” they also said.

Zarate in June filed a complaint against Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade, spokesperson of the anti-communist task force, accusing the general of violating Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and Section 55 of the Administrative Code of 1987 which prohibits members of the armed forces from participating in partisan political activity.

In recent weeks, more progressive groups have run to the Ombudsman for relief against red-tagging. Rights alliance Karapatan, Kabataan party-list and the National Union of Peoples Lawyers filed separate complaints against the NTF-ELCAC officials over their continued red-tagging. — Kristine Joy Patag

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