Philippines: Activists, Journalists Red-tagged

(Manila, January 17, 2022) – The Philippine government should end the “red-tagging” of activists as rebels or supporters of the communist insurgency, Human Rights Watch said today, releasing a video about the threatening practice and its impact. The video features a human rights activist, a workers’ rights advocate, and a journalist whom the authorities have red-tagged.

Red-tagging, also known as red-baiting, has been used for decades in the Philippines in the government’s campaign against the communist New People’s Army (NPA), which began in 1969. The government’s counterinsurgency efforts include publicly accusing activists, journalists, politicians, and others and their organizations of being directly involved in the fighting or supporting the NPA. The Philippine military has long been responsible for large numbers of extrajudicial killings and torture of alleged communists.

Transcript

Cristina Palabay, Human rights defender

It’s not just simply saying that “Cristina Palabay is a member of the communist group.” It’s usually followed by a threat.

Mylene Cabalona, Workers’ rights activist

As early as 2018, we saw posts from different police pages of our faces. We were terrified.

Cong Corrales, Journalist

It said that I have a one million [pesos = US$20,000] bounty on my head. I must admit I was really scared for my security and my family.

Carlos Conde, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH

These people have been red-tagged. Being red-tagged in the Philippines means the government is accusing you of being a New People’s Army fighter or a supporter of the communist insurgency. The red-tagging is usually done through social media posts or being called out in government news releases or press conferences. The United Nations Human Rights Council and other governments should denounce this tactic and put pressure on the Philippine government to stop red-tagging. In addition, the Philippine government should investigate incidents of red-tagging that have led to killings and hold the perpetrators accountable.

Red-tagging is a relic of the Cold War that the Philippine government uses that the Philippine government uses to try to vanquish the 52-year-old communist insurgency. But it’s not just insurgents that  the government targets. The list of targets has expanded to include activists, journalists, and human rights defenders. Anyone who dares to criticize the government can be red-tagged.

 

Cong Corrales,  Editor, Mindanao Gold Star Daily

This [is] an unfortunate part of our job as journalists and because of this red-tagging I can see that I may be on the right track. Because why would they be so panic-stricken to silence me?

 

Carlos Conde, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH

Red-tagging goes far beyond mere hateful rhetoric. Because many of those red-tagged have been killed being red-tagged essentially means you are on a hit list.

 

Cristina Palabay, Secretary-General, Karapatan

It was International Human Rights Day. December 2018. Someone called me up, called me a slut, called me a whore, many other bad stuff and then he told me that I may end up getting raped aside from being killed.

 

Mylene Cabalona, President

BPO Industry Employees Network

I feel threatened.  I stopped going home. I stayed at the office.  I took my baths there, I slept there . My supervisor who was very supportive would tell me not to go out because there may be people following me.

 

Carlos Conde, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH

This practice has become so widespread that protests are taking place against it. Red-tagging is part of the government’s counterinsurgency campaign but by shutting down critical voices of activists, human rights defenders, and journalists it is shrinking democratic space in the Philippines.