SC: Red-tagging threat to life, liberty, security

Janvic Mateo, Emmanuel Tupas - The Philippine Star
SC: Red-tagging threat to life, liberty, security
In a 39-page decision, the SC noted that red-tagging has been acknowledged by international organizations as a form of harassment and intimidation.
BusinessWorld / File

MANILA, Philippines —  The Supreme Court (SC) has declared that red-tagging and guilt by association threatens a person’s constitutional right to life, liberty and security.

In a 39-page decision, the SC noted that red-tagging has been acknowledged by international organizations as a form of harassment and intimidation.

Being labeled as “red” often comes with frequent surveillance, direct harassment and, in some instances, eventual death, according to the SC.

The high tribunal noted that being associated with communists or terrorists makes the red-tagged person “a target of vigilantes, paramilitary groups or even state agents.”

“Thus, it is easy to comprehend how a person may, in certain circumstances, develop or harbor fear that being red-tagged places his or her life or security in peril,” the ruling, penned by Associate Justice Rodil Zalameda, stated.

The SC further noted that red-tagging is the use of threats and intimidation to discourage “subversive activities.”

The ruling stemmed from a petition filed by Siegfred Deduro, an activist and former representative of party-list Bayan Muna and a founding member and vice president for the Visayas of Bayan Muna and the Makabayan coalition.

In his petition, Deduro sought the issuance of a writ of amparo, a remedy for those whose right to life, liberty or security has been violated or threatened.

He said military officers under the command of Maj. Gen. Eric Vinoya, the commanding officer of the Philippine Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, red-tagged and accused him of being a ranking member of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA).

Deduro added that he saw posters with his image alongside other activists where they were labeled as criminals, terrorists and members of the CPP-NPA-National Democratic Front (NDF).

He claimed that there was also an instance when he was followed by unidentified men.

The SC reversed and set aside the ruling of the Iloilo Regional Trial Court (RTC) that dismissed Deduro’s petition, saying that it found prima facie evidence that warranted the issuance of a writ of amparo in his case.

“Petitioner should not be expected to await his own abduction or worse, death, or even that the supposed responsible persons directly admit their role in the threats or violations to his constitutional rights, before the courts can give due course to his petition. It is at this phase where the petitioner is at risk of enforced disappearance or extrajudicial killing when the writ of amparo becomes necessary,” the high tribunal said.

“Quite like the development of the Rule on Amparo, the damages inflicted by red-baiting evolve, too: they start from the psychological before they turn physical. Amid a history of shifting social and political ties, we affirm the judiciary’s sworn duty to see to it that the protection of every right guaranteed in the Constitution remains constant for all,” it added.

The SC only granted the petition, and not yet the privilege of the writ of amparo.

The RTC will set a hearing that will determine if the privilege of the writ will be granted.

In his concurring opinion, Senior Associate Justice Marvic Leonen said that the issuance of a writ of amparo is justified when there is red-tagging, “vilification, labeling and guilt by association threaten a person’s right to life, liberty or security.”

Leonen mentioned his 2015 dissenting opinion, where he outlined the dangers inherent to red-tagging.

“As astutely stated in the ponencia, a person seeking the protective ambit of a writ of amparo need not await the inimical outcomes of being red-tagged to come to pass to be entitled to the writ,” he said.

“The heightened risk of danger or death brought about by being labeled as a communist, a communist sympathizer or even merely being adjacent to a communist cause should be seriously considered by judges in amparo proceedings,” he added.

The SC’s decision was promulgated in July last year but was only publicized yesterday.

Bayan lauds SC

Following the development, the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) yesterday lauded the SC for granting a writ of amparo in favor of Deduro.

Bayan chairperson emeritus Carol Araullo said they welcomed the high tribunal’s unequivocal, legally and morally binding ruling on red-tagging.

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