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Fact check: NUJP, FOCAP are not linked with the CPP-NPA-NDF

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Fact check: NUJP, FOCAP are not linked with the CPP-NPA-NDF
File photo taken during a rally calling for press freedom.
The STAR / Krizjohn Rosales, file

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 1:03 p.m, July 9) — Legal press organizations National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) and Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) — again red-tagged — have no ties to the Communist Party of the Philippines nor are they propagandists for communist rebels.

In a July 1 public affairs program "Usapang Pangkapayapaan, Usapang Pangkaunlaran Pilipinas!" streamed on the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict's (NTF-ELCAC) Facebook page, Jeffrey Celiz, a former activist who claims to be an ex-cadre of the New People's Army (NPA), said without basis that the CPP has infiltrated the ranks of these two media groups. 

Celiz also red-tagged Nestor Burgos Jr., a veteran reporter of the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI). 

CLAIM: NUJP, FOCAP, and Burgos are helping the CPP and its two units — the armed New People's Army and political arm National Democratic Front of the Philippines — spread its propaganda to recruit memebrs into taking up arms against the government. 

RATING: This is false

FACTS:

What Ka Eric said

Celiz — who calls himself "Ka Eric"— linked NUJP, FOCAP and Burgos to the communist rebel movement. He said in Filipino that "[f]irst they use as vehicle to infiltrate our media, what we call the NUJP, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines. This is a project of CPP and a lot of its members are former members of the CPP.”

He alleged that Burgos, whom he supposedly had known in his youth when they were part of campus journalist organization College Editors' Guild of the Philippines, also operates for the communist rebels, through the underground media organization Artista at Manunulat ng Sambayanan or ARMAS.

He then accused FOCAP, an organization for journalists working for overseas newsrooms, of having "tactical alliances" with ARMAS. 

A screengrab of the July 1 program where Celiz made his claims. As he was talking, his photo was shown on the screen. (Taken on July 7, 2022 from the official Facebook page of the NTF-ELCAC) 

What was left out

This is not the first time NUJP has been linked to the communist revolutionary movement and the group has repeatedly denounced and denied these accusations.

In 2019, three Manila-based tabloids reported, based on allegations by alleged former rebels, that the union was being allegedly led by the CPP-NPA-NDF. 

The organization is actually led by a board of directors who are elected in NUJP's congresses.

READ: NUJP pushes back vs NTF-ELCAC's red-tagging of media

In response to Celiz's claims, NUJP Secretary General Len Olea told Philstar.com said that the group condemns the vicious practice of red-tagging, which discredits the Philippine media and justifies all forms of attacks against them. 

"Celiz and the others should stop their baseless accusations and let journalists do their work," she said in a text message. 

FOCAP president Jason Gutierrez noted that they have already addressed and denied the accusation in the past.

Sought for comment about Celiz's rehashed claims, he told Philstar.com in an online message that "we’ll let our collective work speak for us", noting that their recent take on the government's move to block several websites may have ruffled some feathers, as usual. 

 

NUJP and FOCAP are not among the 18 member organizations of the NDF listed on its website.

Meanwhile, Celiz's red-tagging of PDI's Burgos in the July 1 interview was without basis, too. 

In a 2020 news report, Burgos, who used to be NUJP' chair, "categorically denied" that he was among those who recruited Celiz into the underground movement. He did not dispute that they knew each other when they were campus journalists. 

Burgos said that he had never joined militant groups even during his days as a student at the University of the Philippines Visayas, adding that he even ran for the student council under a group that was up against a militant political party at that time. 

Essential context

Red-tagging is the linking of individuals and groups to the communist armed struggle, specifically to the CPP and its related units. 

It is commonly used as a tactic of government agencies to discredit human rights advocates, activists, environmentalists, journalists and others in the Philippines. In some instances, red-tagged individuals are harassed and others are later killed. 

Celiz's comments come more than a week after the then-National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon requested the National Telecommunications Commission to block public access to 28 websites for alleged links to communist rebels.

Two of these websites belonged to alternative media outlets Bulatlat and PinoyWeekly — both part of the AlterMidya, a network of independent and progressive media outfits, institutions and individuals.

Several rights groups, including the UN Human Rights Office, flagged red-tagging as a dangerous practice that has been institutionalized in the country.

RELATED: After linking Cavite sortie to CPP-NPA, Lacson denies red-tagging

Why is this important?

Red-tagging sends a chilling effect to critics of the government, and intimidates them into silence. 

In his dissenting opinion in Zarate v. Aquino III, Associate Justice Marvic Leonen described red-tagging or red-baiting as a “phenomenon of implicating progressive civil group leaders to heinous crimes." 

As of July 7, Celiz's interview on the "Usapang Pangkapayaan, Usapang Pangkaunlaran" show, which was posted on the NTF-ELCAC's official Facebook page, has over 5,300 views, and more than 400 reactions.

We fact-checked this as this was also not the first time that Celiz red-tagged groups and individuals without presenting any evidence. 

READ: Casiño, artists slam ‘baseless’ accusations at Senate hearing on red-tagging 

— Angelica Y. Yang, reviewed by Kristine Joy Patag

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This story is supported by the Philippine Fact-check Incubator, an Internews initiative to build the fact-checking capacity of news organizations in the Philippines and encourage participation in global fact-checking efforts.

Philstar.com is also a founding partner of Tsek.ph, a collaborative fact-checking project for the 2022 Philippines’ elections and an initiative of academe, civil society groups and media to counter disinformation and provide the public with verified information.

Want to know more about our fact-checking initiative? Check our FAQs here. Have a claim you want fact-checked? Reach out to us at [email protected]

 

FACT CHECK

FOCAP

JEFFREY CELIZ

NUJP

PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER

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