University of the Philippines alumni falsely red-tagged as dead or captured by the New People's Army, the revolutionary organization of the Communist Party of the Philippines, have spoken out.
Liza Magtoto, an award-winning playwright and scriptwriter, is popularly known for writing the musical "Rak of Aegis".
She was also a staff member of the Philippine Collegian, the student publication of UP.
But last January, a Facebook page falsely listed Magtoto and 26 other UP alumni, such as Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) lawyer Raffy Aquino, as dead or captured members of the NPA.
The red-tagging of UP alumni happened just days after Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana wrote a letter to the UP president, abrogating the UP-DND Accord, which bars the military or the police from entering the UP campus without authorization from UP officials.
"Ang akala ko noon kaya ako na-red-tag kasi mayroon akong post about defending academic freedom, dahil medyo kakalabas lang noon ng balita sa pag-abrogate ng UP-DND Accord," Magtoto said.
Aquino added: "My first reaction was ang bilis ng DND ha, na-pick up kaagad 'yung pinost ko sa Rappler, red-tagged na ako kaagad."
Lorenzana has not responded to Balitang America's request for comment and it is still not clear why Magtoto and Aquino were red-tagged.
"Between amused and afraid and medyo na-high blood ako actually, or not the next year I had increase human blood pressure . . . But it was, it was quite a fearful moment. You'll never know what they're going to do because in this administration they they don't discern," Magtoto said about being red-tagged.
For Aquino, red-tagging has been defined as the act of labeling and accusing individuals or organizations of being left-leaning subversives, communists or terrorists. It is used as a strategy by state agents, particularly law-enforcement agencies and the military against those perceived to be threats or enemies of the state.
"Red tagging is mind conditioning, a sustained effort to numb the public to the state's demonization of politically active Filipinos to lessen resistance to their actual persecution it is not much different from what the Nazis did to the Jews in the late 1930s," Aquino said.
UP Chancellor Fidel Nemenzo believes the government’s reckless “demonization” of those expressing dissent or criticism may be foreshadowing the full extent of the Anti-Terrorism Act passed by the Duterte administration.
"The bigger context here is of course the anti Terrorism Act, the failure of the peace talks and the fact that Duterte. I mean, he has only two years to fulfill his promises to end the communist insurgency . . . So they've been waging this campaign across all fronts and kasama dito on red tagging campaign," Nemenzo said.
Aquino added: "Rather than a scalpel . . . the ATA is a sledgehammer that may be used not only against terrorists but also against democratic dissent in general. The ATA works against legitimate dissent."
Nemenzo also said the UP-DND Accord was signed precisely to protect the students, academic freedom and freedom of expression in a safe space, such as the UP campus.
The AFP Information Exchange Facebook account has taken down the post, apologized for its inconsistencies in the said list and said that an internal investigation is underway.