CHR: Red-tagging prevalent under Duterte administration

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) noted a spike in red-tagging or red-baiting incidents during the Duterte administration.

Commission on Human Rights (CHR)

Speaking at the Senate defense committee's inquiry on red-tagging issues Tuesday, CHR Commissioner Karen Dumpit said from 2009 to 2016, the commission recorded only 25 red-tagging incidents, while from 2016 to 2020, they "already" logged 96 red-tagging reports.

"Given the period of 2009 to 2016, that's about seven years, as opposed to years, you can just imagine the spike in data that we have," Dumpit told the Senate panel.

Dumpit did not elaborate further on the details of their data.

In the hearing, the CHR official cited the commission's report that red-tagging is being used by the military and paramilitary units to easily silence dissent. 

She said it poses a "grave threat" to the persons and groups being accused of being left-leaning, communists or terrorists, as this paves the way for more abuses against them.

But the red-tagging not only targeted human rights advocates, indigenous people, journalists, and groups, among others, but the CHR and its officials as well.

Dumpit recalled the remarks issued by AFP Southern Luzon Command chief Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. against her and the CHR in connection with the recent report of the United Nations Human Right Council on the country's human rights situation.

In the statement posted on his unit's official Facebook page last month, Parlade described the CHR as "termites". He also accused its officials of being a "mouthpiece" to Makabayan lawmakers, whom they insist were part of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People's Army (NPA). 

While the constitutional body acknowledges Parlade's remarks, Dumpit said the military official used "disturbingly dehumanizing language that incites hatred" against the CHR.

"In the 27 years of me being in the CHR, I have never witnessed such brazen disrespect for the institution coming from an active military officer. More astonishing is the enabling environment for this kind of behavior to thrive within the administration," Dumpit lamented.

"Statements like these hurled against us and human rights defenders may at the very least amount to a violation of the Philippines' Code of Conduct of Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, Republict Act No. 6713," she later said, questioning the Armed Forces of the Philippines for its inaction and failure to discipline its ranks.

Dumpit also reiterated the CHR's position that while some members of progressive groups may support the armed struggle, others "most likely...have no idea on what communism or revolutionary struggle is about". Individuals may have joined the groups merely to express their discontent to government policies or their advocacies, she noted.

"The existence of these groups and the freedom they exercise in articulating issues should be viewed as badges of vibrant democracy and not as attacks against the state," she said.

Lawyer and educator Antonio La Viña, who was also invited to the hearing, also shared the dangers of the government security sector's red-tagging activities.

"This actually shows how dangerous red tagging can be. Because if you actually say that without due process that a person is a member of the CPP -- we have heard that many times earlier today -- you are actually making that judgement without a judge making that ascertainment. And that to me, is very dangerous, and can result to real harm to individuals," La Viña stressed.

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, on the other hand, maintained that they are not engaged in red-tagging, even as they insisted on their claim that progressive lawmakers and groups are associated with the CPP and the NPA.

Senator Panfilo Lacson, Senate defense committee panel, also recognized the danger of red-tagging.

"That's more perception than anything else. Of course, there is a looming or probable danger or harm on the persons being red-tagged," the senator said.