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CHR slams alleged gov’t penchant for red-tagging after farmer’s slay

/ 05:54 PM June 22, 2020

MANILA, Philippines –  The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has slammed the government’s alleged tendency to label people in rural areas as members of communist rebel groups, following the death of a farmer believed killed during a military operation.

CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia said in a statement Monday that hasty red-tagging in the midst of the extrajudicial killings issue and the government’s anti-communist drive gives the picture of it is not receptive to contrary opinions.

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“The state’s haphazard labelling of individuals as affiliated to communist or leftist terrorist groups directly threatens the lives or safety of individuals,” De Guia said.

“Red tagging in the context of the increasing extrajudicial killings in rural Philippines and the government’s counterinsurgency program, may be seen as a manifestation of repression and the criminalization of political dissent,” she added.

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CHR’s statement came after suspected NPA leader Zalday Meraya and his aide were killed in a supposed firefight with agents of the Philippine Army’s 20th Infantry Battalion in Palapag, Northern Samar on Saturday.

Authorities said that Meraya was the finance officer of SRC Arctic — an armed group that allegedly extorts money and targets government projects in Northern Samar’s coastal towns.

However, rights group Hustisya claimed that it was the military that opened fire at Meraya’s family house, injuring his relatives including daughter Jolina Calot, who studies at the University of Eastern Philippines and also a member of progressive group League of Filipino Students (LFS), a left-leaning youth organization.

Calot is currently in critical condition, Hustisya said.

CHR said it will conduct its own investigation of the attacks on Calot’s family, including reports that the victims were falsely tagged as communist fighters.

“The Commission on Human Rights… calls for justice for the family of Jolina Calot, a student of the University of Eastern Philippines and a member of the League of Filipino Students.  Her father and his companion were reported to be falsely red-tagged by law enforcement agencies,” De Guia said.

“The Commission extends its deepest sympathy to the families of the fallen farmers and commits to conduct an independent investigation of the case. We call on the local government of Northern Samar to equally probe the violent incident and deliver immediate justice to the victims,” she added.

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The incident is not the first time CHR called out the government for red-tagging activities.  Last May 22, the commission asked government officials to stop labeling students, activists, and even journalists as part of the communist armed movement, as they have faced threats due to the insinuations made by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

According to a post made by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Deputy Chief of Staff for civilian operations Maj. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr., a member of the NTF-ELCAC, several groups created by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) were chiming in on the ABS-CBN shutdown issue, and using it to gather support.

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TAGS: 20th Infantry Battalion, anti-communist drive, CHR, Commission on Human Rights, communist rebel groups, extrajudicial killings, Jacqueline de Guia, National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, Northern Samar, NTF-ELCAC, Palapagan, Philippine Army, red-tagging
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