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Will the AFP, PNP, and NTF-ELCAC obey the SC ruling on red-tagging?

Editorial | Updates Philippines Vol. VI, No. 9 – May 15, 2024

The recent ruling of the reactionary government’s Supreme Court (SC) on red-tagging or red-baiting may be considered a welcome development and a victory of the people’s democratic movement. Coupled with growing international pressure to denounce this draconian tactic of the Marcos Jr. administration, it can also be said that the strong public clamor to stop red-tagging is a driving force for the SC to make this decision.

The SC has granted the petition of writ of amparo for former Bayan Muna Partylist Representative Siegfred Deduro, after state forces associated him with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). The reactionary high court declared that linking red-tagging and guilt by association jeopardizes a person’s fundamental rights to life, liberty, or security.

In his concurring opinion, SC Senior Associate Justice Marvic Lionen correctly pointed out: 

“To make it easy for military and paramilitary units to silence or cause untold human rights abuses on vocal dissenters, government agents usually resort to stereotyping or caricaturing individuals. This is accomplished by providing witnesses who, under coercive and intimidating conditions, identify the leaders of organizations critical of the administration as masterminds of ordinary criminal acts. Not only does this make these leaders’ lives and liberties vulnerable, a chilling effect on dissent is also generated among similar-minded individuals.”

While the issuance of such a decision by the SC can be considered a welcome development especially for activists and citizens who simply wish to peacefully express their dissent, the biggest question is: will the executive branch of the GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) comply with the SC ruling?

The main Red-taggers are the batallions and other military units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Philippine National Police (PNP), and officials of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Struggle (NTF-ELCAC) and the Anti-Terrorism Council. Red-tagging has long been a tactic in the GRP’s ‘anti-insurgency’ campaign that intensified during the former Duterte regime until the current Marcos Jr. regime.

There are also plenty of Red-taggers from the barangay up to the municipal level. Among them are Rico Maca, Indigenous People Mandatory Representative of Surigao del Sur, local government officials, barangay captains and members of barangay councils who blatantly collaborate with the military in suppressing local community leaders and deny the crimes of the AFP in their respective areas of responsibility.

Red-tagging is basically a state policy included in the current regime’s National Security Policy (NSP). In this light, the initiatives of progressive lawmakers and activists of asserting their rights against red-tagging is in the right direction. A number of pending petitions for the writ of amparo of victims of red-tagging may likewise benefit from the SC decision on red-tagging. International solidarity and support can help in consolidating this gain against red-tagging.