Why red-tagging is wrong

BAR NONE - Atty. Ian Vincent Manticajon - The Freeman

Red-taggers remind me of a quote from American scholar and journalist Henry Louis Mencken: “For every complex problem, there is a solution that is clear, simple, and wrong.”

For former presidential communications undersecretary Lorraine Badoy and other like-minded individuals in the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), one simple solution to a supposedly waning insurgency is to brand or “expose” as a communist supporter anyone opposing the government or sharing the same critical stance on issues.

In 2019, some members of the NTF-ELCAC even flew to Europe to “raise awareness about the supposed funding of the European Union to Philippine organizations that have links to the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA).” It’s as if European governments and their intelligence agencies are not already keenly aware of what’s going in our socio-political landscape.

Recently, a Manila Regional Trial Court judge was red-tagged by Badoy. Judge Marlo Magdoza-Malagar’s ruling which junked the proscription case filed by the Department of Justice seeking to declare the CPP-NPA a terrorist organization, earned Badoy’s ire. The 135-page decision was well-reasoned, flowing from an outstanding judge and professor of Law who at one time was a UK government international scholar.

Breaking their characteristic silence, judges in the Philippines speaking through two judges associations condemned the attack against Malagar. Hukom, a registered organization of first-level and second-level judges, released a statement on Saturday saying it cannot accept vilifications and ad hominem attacks as normal and ordinary. “These acts must be called out because of their chilling effects on the exercise of our judicial functions and the lasting damage they cause to our institution,” says Hukom.

The Philippine Judges Association (PJA) in a statement the other day “deplores in no uncertain terms the undeserved vilification, red-tagging and life-endangerment of a member of the judiciary.” The PJA calls on the “leadership of the present administration to declare that in no time under its watch will democracy be imperiled by an irresponsible and unfounded assault on a trial judge.”

Red-tagging is defined by Philippine courts as "the act of labeling, branding, naming and accusing individuals and/or organizations of being left-leaning, subversives, communists or terrorists (used as) a strategy… by state agents, particularly law enforcement agencies and the military, against those perceived to be ‘threats’ or ‘enemies’ of the state."

Red-tagging is wrong because it is a form of an ad hominem argument wherein “an attack on a person is substituted for the substance of the dispute.” A society aiming for stability encourages various ideas, thoughts, and divergent views. The latter reminds us that the world is complex, that no one person or group has the monopoly of ideas.

But instead of debunking reasoned ideas, a red-tagger substitutes a personal attack against an individual or group. Such is an error of relevance because whoever that person being attacked is has nothing to do with the issue at hand.

Not all ad hominem attacks are useless per se. If used judiciously, it can be effective in attacking the credibility or exposing the untrustworthiness of a person holding opposing views. However, if used indiscriminately, without regard for evidence and thorough research, it can unnecessarily rankle emotions which leads us to nowhere in resolving pressing issues. It fosters hate, and hate is the weakest and most counterproductive motivation for reasoning and human behavior.

In the words of one pundit, obsession against a group due to frustrations of being unable to find a solution or of refusing to take long-term solutions to a decades-old problem, can lead to the stupidest theories, paranoia, and idiocy.


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