Justice chief says law needed to define, criminalize ‘red-tagging’

JUSTICE Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra urged Congress to enact a law that will clearly define and penalize the act of “red-tagging” or hastily labeling a person or a group as communists.

“If Congress is minded to criminalize red-tagging, it should enact the appropriate legislation,” Mr. Guevarra told reporters on Tuesday.

He added that currently, “complaints may revolve around defamation, harassment, coercion, unjust vexation, or violation of privacy laws, but not for an offense called ‘red-tagging’.”

Mr. Guevarra said further that having a law on red-tagging “may help reduce the problem of reckless endangerment,” therefore “it’s really something for the congress to ponder on.”

Meanwhile, human rights group Karapatan filed a manifestation on Monday asking the Supreme Court (SC) to reverse the Court of Appeals’ decision to dismiss their 2019 petition for writs of amparo and habeas data to protect human rights defenders.

The writs of amparo and habeas data are remedies “available to any person whose right to privacy in life, liberty or security is violated or threatened by an unlawful act,” according to the SC.

Karapatan said in a press statement on Monday that the high court must “act swiftly to protect the rights of human rights defenders in the Philippines.”

The group cited the statements of Gen. Antonio G. Parlade Jr., spokesperson of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), among the “alarming developments” as to why the Supreme Court must “revisit its view of red-tagging and terrorist-labeling and to see the same for what they truly are: imminent and actual threats to the people’s right to life, liberty and security.”

Several senators on Tuesday filed a resolution seeking to censure Mr. Parlade over his “disrespectful” remark against legislators after they criticized the red-tagging of community pantry organizers.

The senators who signed Senate Resolution No. 709 were Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III, Senate Pro-Tempore Ralph G. Recto, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel F. Zubiri, and Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon.

Senators Maria Lourdes Nancy S. Binay, Pia S. Cayetano, Leila M. De Lima, Sherwin T. Gatchalian, Richard J. Gordon, Risa N. Hontiveros-Baraquel, Panfilo M. Lacson, Francis N. Pangilinan, Aquilino L. Pimentel III, Grace S. Poe-Llamanzares and Emmanuel Joel J. Villanueva also signed the resolution.

They cited the “disrespectful and demeaning” statement of the military officer over a television interview where he called the senators “stupid” after they sought to defund the NTF-ELCAC.

“Instead of engaging in a constructive debate, Lt. Gen. Parlade has chosen to demean and disparage the Senators, through statements that display his limited grasp of Congress’ role in the budget process and show his lack of respect not just for the Senators as duly-elected representatives of the people but also for the Senate as an institution,” the resolution read.

The 15 senators noted that the P19-billion budget of NTF-ELCAC is intended to fund the delivery of basic services to 822 barangays cleared of communist insurgency, adding that Congress has budget oversight functions.

Another resolution was filed by five senators on Monday calling for an inquiry on the task force’s performance and budget utilization. — Bianca Angelica D. Añago and Vann Marlo M. Villegas