Guevarra: Stop dangerous 'red-tagging', file complaints instead

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Guevarra: Stop dangerous 'red-tagging', file complaints instead
This undated photo shows Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra at a Senate committee hearing.
The STAR / Mong Pintolo

MANILA, Philippines — Instead of baselessly labeling groups and people as fronts for communist rebels and putting them in danger of harassment and attacks, officials engaged in red-tagging should just file proper complaints, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said.

The justice secretary is a member of the controversial National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, whose officials have been slapped with a slew of complaints before the Office of the Ombudsman for red-tagging.

Guevarra said he believes red-tagging is not a policy of the NTF-ELCAC.

"There are just some certain persons associated with the NTF-ELCAC who might have been vocal about their impressions about certain groups that is why it is being said that these people are red-tagging certain groups," he said in the Kapihan sa Manila Bay Forum on Wednesday morning.

NTF-ELCAC personalities have so far accused nuns, activists, journalists, celebrities, human rights workers and community pantry organizers of being members of the communist armed movement.

"The [Department of Justice]’s position is very clear on that. If there is, let’s say, certain acts of red-tagged persons that can be said against the law. Then don’t just label them. File the necessary action against them if you have evidence," he added partly in Filipino.

Guevarra said the DOJ has already expressed this position to other members of the task force, but admitted he does not know if they paid it any mind. He instead deferred to other officials of the NTF-ELCAC for reaction.

SOJ agrees: Red-tagging is dangerous

While Guevarra did not identify them, Presidential Communications Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy faces multiple complaints over red-tagging at the Office of the Ombudsman.

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., NTF-ELCAC vice chair, also accused groups of communist links before the SC and was ordered to explain his comments. Retired general Antonio Parlade, former task force spokesperson, was also made to explain to the Supreme Court a social media post where he labeled those contesting the Anti-Terrorism Act as a "clear threat" to government.

RELATED: SC: Petitioners constantly red-tagged alleged ‘credible threat of injury’ vs anti-terror law

Echoing what activists and dissenters have long told the government, Guevarra continued that if they do not have evidence to support their labeling, they should not speak at all, “because you are endangering certain people.”

"If there is no sufficient evidence, those people who are just vocal about their own political views may be targeted and put in danger," the justice chief added.

In resolving the more than 30 petitions questioning the Anti-Terrorism Act, the SC itself said it "finds that petitioners have sufficiently alleged the presence of a credible threat of injury for being constant targets of ‘red-tagging’ or ‘truth tagging.’ Therefore, they satisfy the requisites of the traditional concept of legal standing." 

Guevarra is handing over the reins of the DOJ to Rep. Crisping “Boying” Remulla (Cavite) who, at the heat of the campaign, red-tagged some supporters of Vice President Leni Robredo. He has since acknowledged he would be more careful with his words as incoming justice secretary.

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