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Rising cases of red-tagging bring back memory of authoritarian rule — bishop
This file photo shows CBCP Vice President Bishop Pablo David (left) with CBCP President Romulo Valles (center).
The STAR/Miguel de Guzman, File

Rising cases of red-tagging bring back memory of authoritarian rule — bishop

Christian Deiparine (Philstar.com) - January 28, 2021 - 7:37pm

MANILA, Philippines — A high ranking official of the Catholic Church in the country has spoken out on the increasing cases of individuals and institutions blatantly linked as having ties to the armed communist movement, saying such remind of the country's days under authoritarian regime.

Incidents of red-tagging have grown to become rampant under the Duterte administration led by state forces and government officials, including by no less than the president himself.

Such had often led to those linked as facing intimidation, threats to their life or worse, killed, with the latest being the military rehashing a 2018 unsubstantiated claim that over a dozen universities in the country are recruitment grounds to the CPP-NPA.

On Thursday, Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, vice president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, said it was "ridiculous" for Church-run institutions to be red-tagged, and described the said cases in the country as "becoming worrisome."

"I think there is a reason for people to be afraid when that becomes a trend," said David, a vocal critic of the Duterte administration's brutal war on drugs. "It sort of brings back to memory the times when we were under authoritarian rule."

Filipino bishops held the press briefing after their two-day plenary assembly, which was held for the first time virtually as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Philippines was under a dictatorship for more than two decades in the hands of former president Ferdinand Marcos, whose rule was marred by thousands of human rights violations as well as graft and corruption that culminated in a peaceful uprising in 1986.

And while the country has since returned to a democracy, many have described the present administration as having familiarity with Marcos' authoritarian rule, with Duterte and his officials justifying his anti-drug campaign and publicly declaring that he has no regard for human rights.

Early this month, Catholic bishops from Western Visayas also denounced the red-tagging of the indigenous in Panay, with a joint police and military operation in December 2020 resulting in nine IP leaders dead and 17 arrested.

What is largely seen as a means for allowing red-tagging to prevail is the controversial anti-terror law, enacted in July of last year, and is since facing 37 petitions before the Supreme Court to declare it as unconstitutional. 

Many groups, which includes former justices of the high court along with other legal luminaries, have said that provisions of the legislation which Duterte fast tracked the approval of, could spur more human rights abuses already worsening in the country, as is shown in nearly 8,000 killed in his drug war.

David in a pastoral letter as then acting president of the CBCP led the bishops in objecting the passage of the law, drawing resemblance to moves that "eventually led to the fall of democracy and the rise of a dictatorial regime that terrorized the country" in 1972, the year Marcos declared Martial Law.

"This was one of the reasons why we came up with an earlier statement..it was a fear about the exaggerated response to the move to address terrorism that might compromise the human rights of the people," the Caloocan prelate said. "In a healthy democracy, it is good to question policies like these."

David added that it was good that universities included in the armed forces' list rejected the red-tagging claims, which school administrators called as irresponsible as it was done without proof.

Over the course of the Duterte administration's more than four years in office, which will end in 2022, members of the Catholic clergy had faced threats to their life similar to those red-tagged, including David himself.

Four bishops and two priests had also been included in those charged with sedition, all of whom have since been cleared by the justice department on insufficient evidence.

ARMED FORCES OF THE PHILIPPINES CATHOLIC BISHOPS' CONFERENCE OF THE PHILIPPINES CATHOLIC CHURCH PABLO VIRGILIO DAVID RED-TAGGING RODRIGO DUTERTE
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