HRW: State forces 'actively use social media' for red-tagging

HRW: State forces 'actively use social media' for red-tagging
This screen capture shows a since-deleted tweet by the Batangas Maritime Police Station using the hashtags 'NinoyNotAHero' and 'NinoyNPA'.

MANILA, Philippines — The military, police and other national security forces "actively used social media" to red-tag or baselessly accuse individuals of being members of the armed communist insurgency, Human Rights Watch said in a report released Thursday.

Membership in an activist group is not the same as membership in or even support for the Communist Party of the Philippines or the New People's Army but activism has often been conflated in the Philippines with terrorism and of being an enemy of the state.

The New York-based watchdog said red-tagging puts those accused "at heightened risk of attack by the security forces or unidentified gunmen" and in some cases has actually resulted in their killing by unknown gunmen. Police and military officials have repeatedly claimed that their labeling is actually "truth tagging".

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"Leaders and lawyers of peasant organizations and human rights groups who were red-tagged have been physically harmed by government security forces and vigilantes; several have been killed," HRW said.

It added, "others were harassed, such as a group of nuns and peasant women who were charged with aiding 'terrorist activities.'"

It said the practice of red-tagging continued even under the Marcos Jr. administration despite the declaration of National Security Adviser Clarita Carlos that she does not favor this. Carlos herself has been accused on social media of being sympathetic to communists or of being at odds with the government's hard line on them.

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HRW flagged the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict's red-tagging of former Vice President Leni Robredo as well as of journalists, book publishers and international non-profits like Oxfam.

It also noted the red-tagging of Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 19 Judge Marlo Magdoza-Malagar, who became the target of the accusations after she junked the government's plea to declare the CPP and NPA as terrorist groups.

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The Department of Justice, which filed the petition, accepted the decision and said it would file a separate one under the Anti-Terrorism Act, which was signed into law while the proscription petition was in court.

The human rights group, however, noted the action taken by the Supreme Court on the threats to Malagar, specifically its demand to former NTF-ELCAC spokesperson Lorraine Badoy-Partosa to explain why she should not be held in contempt for posts perecived as threats to Judge Magdoza-Malagar and her husband as well as to the court. — Xave Gregorio

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