Red-tagging, media killings among issues raised in talk with UN expert — DOJ

Ian Laqui - Philstar.com
Red-tagging, media killings among issues raised in talk with UN expert � DOJ
UN Special Rapporteur Irene Khan exchanges pleasantries with DOJ officials led by Usec. Raul Vasquez at the end of a dialogue Wednesday.
Ben Pulta / Philippine News Agency

MANILA, Philippines — United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression and opinion Irene Khan addressed concerns about red-tagging, media killings and impunity in a closed-door meeting with officials from the Department of Justice (DOJ) on Wednesday.

In a press briefing, DOJ Undersecretary Raul Vasquez mentioned that Khan asked about the government’s stance on red-tagging. The DOJ clarified that red-tagging is not a part of the government’s policy.

“We explained that there is no policy of red-tagging from this government,” Vasquez said. 

DOJ Undersecretary Jesse Andres said that they told Khan that the government would pursue charges on state and non-state actors who resort to red-tagging.

“We ask that all the complainants and the evidence be brought forth with the Department of Justice and we will pursue appropriate cases to those who are involved in red-tagging,” Andres said.

The DOJ official also said that the Justice department will reach out more to civil society organizations (CSO) when it comes to handling cases of victims of red-tagging — so that they can help in obtaining evidence and aiding law enforcement agencies.

“Whenever there are concerns that are coursed through the CSOs, even with respect to red-tagging, we will partner with them to pursue justice against the potential and possible victims,” Andres said. 

The DOJ is a member of the government’s anti-communist task force, National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC). Some past members of the NTF-ELCAC have been known to openly red-tag activists, journalists and critics during the administration of former President Rodrigo Duterte.

The NTF-ELCAC was first flagged by the UN rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of climate change Ian Fry.

Fry called for the abolishment of the anti-communist task force as it allegedly operates with impunity.

Media killings

According to officials from the DOJ, Khan also sought updates on the deaths of four media personalities, including broadcaster Percy Lapid, expressing concerns about impunity towards media practitioners.

“We explained that despite the that the accused is a high-ranking government official, we pursued the case, built up the case, the court has issued a warrant of arrest,” Vasquez said, referring to Lapid’s case.

Vasquez also assured Khan that the government has been involved in reforms to safeguard members of the media. 

One of the reforms mentioned included the proposed amendment of Administrative Order (AO) No. 35.

AO No. 35 is a government mechanism that creates an inter-agency committee chaired by the DOJ, assigned to investigate extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and human rights violations

“What we want to include in the AO NO. 35 would now be a more proactive stance of prosecutors to coordinate and partner with the law enforcement agents to build up the case,” Vasquez said.

Khan will be visiting Metro Manila, Baguio City and Cebu City from January 23 to February 2.

She will present her findings from the 10-day series of discussions at the 59th Session of the UN Human Rights Council in June 2025.

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