ASEAN lawmakers ask PH gov’t to end red-tagging of opposition legislators
MANILA, Philippines — Some lawmakers from across Southeast Asia have called on the Philippine government to refrain from red-tagging opposition legislators, noting that it puts people’s lives at risk for merely speaking out.
In a statement on Thursday, the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) said that red-tagging, or linking people to communism or communist rebels, have grave consequences in the Philippines as red-tagged individuals are either maligned or worse, killed.
APHR was referring to the continuous red-tagging that Makabayan bloc and its member, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate gets from the government, particularly President Rodrigo Duterte himself and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Insurgency (NTF-ELCAC).
“Red-tagging has had extremely violent consequences in the Philippines, and the fact we are seeing President Duterte leading the way on such a menacing practice is utterly inexcusable,” Malaysian Member of Parliament Charles Santiago who also chairs APHR said.
“Let’s be clear: not only do the president’s actions attempt to silence political opposition and undermine democracy, but they also directly put people’s lives at risk, particularly those who oppose his agenda,” he added.
Zarate and the other lawmakers from Makabayan bloc have been tagged by Duterte and the NTF-ELCAC as ranking members of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army (CPP-NPA), claiming that the act of the legislators is the act of the communist movement.
The lawmakers have repeatedly stressed that they are not communist rebels and that support for causes pushed by CPP does not necessarily mean they are members.
APHR observations that red-tagging is dangerous in the Philippine are not new. Activist groups and other human rights defenders have already noted this, especially since several red-tagged individuals have already been killed under the Duterte administration.
Just this Tuesday, Dr. Mary Rose Sancelan — the head of the local Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) in Guihulngan City of Negros Oriental — was gunned down by assailants aboard a motorcycle.
Sancelan was red-tagged as the spokesperson of the NPA’s Leonardo Panaligan Command by anti-communist group Kagubak.
Zarate, meanwhile, has been a common topic of President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent briefings, saying that the Makabayan congressman is a part of the communist conspiracy that supposedly has plagued the country. In a pre-recorded briefing on Wednesday, Duterte again mentioned Zarate, insisting that he is a part of the NPA.
For his part, Santiago said Duterte should stop the red-tagging spree to allow the lawmakers to work effectively, free from threat.
“How can lawmakers be expected to fulfill their role as a check on the executive when they themselves are being attacked?” he asked.
“We urgently call on President Duterte and the Philippine government to stop labeling directly-elected representatives as terrorists, and allow opposition lawmakers to effectively fulfill their mandates and freely express their opinions,” he added.
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