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Duterte urged to certify bill vs red-tagging as urgent after DOJ acknowledges need
President Rodrigo Roa Duterte holds a meeting with his pandemic task force on April 19, 2021.
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Duterte urged to certify bill vs red-tagging as urgent after DOJ acknowledges need

Bella Perez-Rubio (Philstar.com) - April 28, 2021 - 5:15pm

MANILA, Philippines — A senator on Wednesday called on President Rodrigo Duterte to certify as urgent a bill seeking to criminalize red-tagging that the justice secretary acknowledged could help curb the practice and the risks that it brings. 

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon last month filed Senate Bill No. 2121, or the proposed Act Defining and Penalizing the Crime of Red-tagging, and recently renewed his push for its immediate passage amid reports of harassment and profiling of community pantry organizers by the police. 

On Tuesday, the bill received a significant nod from Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra who told reporters that enacting a law that criminalizes red-tagging "may help reduce the problem of reckless endangerment." 

Guevarra added that Congress needs to pass appropriate legislation if it wants to punish red-taggers because complaints against them currently "revolve around defamation, harassment, coercion, unjust vexation, or violation of privacy laws." 

Drilon, also a former justice secretary, lauded Guevarra for acknowledging a lack of sufficient and available remedies for victims of red-tagging. 

"The opinion of the Secretary of Justice that there is a gap in the law as red tagging is presently not a criminal offense under our laws, makes the passage of SB 2121 which we filed imperative," he said. “Victims are left without proper recourse against their perpetrators and are forced to file seemingly-appropriate-but-not-quite cases, like libel and grave threats." 

He also noted that libel and grave threats are not sufficient charges when a state agent vilifies a person as an enemy of the state because the act involves impinging on the rights of the accused. 

“Red-tagging threatens the life, liberty and security of a person. As I said before, being red-tagged sometimes serves as a death warrant." 

Drilon's bill defines red-tagging as the labeling, vilifying, branding, naming, accusing, harassing, persecuting, stereotyping, or caricaturing individuals, groups, or organizations as "state enemies, left-leaning, subversives, communists, or terrorists as part of a counter-insurgency or anti-terrorism strategy or program." 

It would also punish red-tagging state agents with up to ten years in prison and disqualification from public office. 

The proposed measure is currently pending at the Committee of Justice and Human Rights which is chaired by Sen. Richard Gordon. 

Detained Sen. Leila de Lima, another former justice secretary, on April 12 was listed as a co-author of the bill upon her request. 

What about the rest of the Senate? 

Running contrary to Drilon and Guevarra's assessments is a committee report from the Senate defense panel, dated Feb. 22, 2021, which concludes that there "are sufficient and available for personalities or groups that have been the subject of the so called 'red-tagging.'"

The report also said "that criminalizing 'red-tagging' is no longer necessary" due to the availability of legal remedies.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros was the only member of the committee to express dissent to some of the contents of the report.  

However, the red-tagging of community pantry organizers this month has caused a stir among senators, at least five of whom are now threatening to defund the government's anti-communist task force due to remarks made by its red-tagging spokespersons.

Three more senators have indicated that they want to review the task force's P19 billion budget. 

READ: Senators: Leave community pantries alone | 'Sayang lang pera’: Senators want to defund red-tagging task force

— with a report from Kristine Joy Patag 

FRANKLIN DRILON RED-TAGGING RODRIGO DUTERTE SENATE
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