MANILA — Rights group Karapatan on Friday filed a complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman against National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. and other administration officials over their alleged red tagging of activists.
In her complaint, Karapatan Secretary-General Cristina Palabay said Esperon and Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade, Jr., as ex-officio members of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), have violated Republic Act No. 9851 or the Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide and Other Crimes Against Humanity.
Also named in the complaint were Communications Undersecretary Lorraine Marie Badoy and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration Undersecretary Esther Margaux “Mocha” Uson.
Palabay said the 4 officials have consistently made dangerous imputations that her organization is a front organization of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA).
“Through red tagging, civilians are deemed to be affiliated with or even members of the CPP or NPA. Consequently, red-tagged civilians become targets of different forms of attacks, even armed violence by state forces,” Palabay said in the complaint.
In the filing, Karapatan listed individuals who have been abducted or brutally murdered by authorities or their proxies, including National Democratic Front consultant and Anakpawis Chair Randall Echanis, Bayan Muna regional coordinator Jory Porquia, Karapatan counsel and National Union of Peoples' Lawyers Negros Chapter Secretary General Benjamin Ramos.
Palabay said that, among others, Esperon permitted the publication of statements against Karapatan on the Facebook page of NTF-ELCAC.
“The statements contain baseless and malicious allegations that Karapatan is one of the many front organizations of the CPP-NPA,” Palabay said.
Parlade was also quoted in an article published on the government news website Philippine News Agency challenging Karapatan to denounce the NPA, who he accused for the killing of a Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU) member.
Parlade also allegedly red-tagged Karapatan on the basis of its support for the calls for press freedom as ABS-CBN’s franchise was tackled at the House of Representatives.
“Respondent Parlade arrogantly claimed in the same statement that we were exploiting the issue to justify our call for the ouster of President Duterte, alleging once again that my organization Karapatan was established by the CPP itself,” she said.
Karapatan likewise said that Badoy and Uson have consistently linked Karapatan with the CPP-NPA as a front organization.
The group also said that the respondents should be held liable as well for violating Republic Act No. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act as red tagging caused them undue injury not only by threatening their lives but also discrediting their work and advocacy.
Aside from criminal liabilities, Karapatan also wants the Ombudsman to hold the respondents administratively liable for gross misconduct.
Karapatan calls for defunding, abolition of anti-insurgency task force
Before going to the Office of the Ombudsman, Karapatan and other allied organizations staged a protest rally in front of the office of the Department of the Interior and Local Government to call for the abolition and defunding of the NTF-ELCAC.
“Wala po kaming ibang makita kundi puro dugo eh, isang madugong record ang naitala na ng NTF nitong 2 taon pa lang nito sa pagkaka-establish nito, kaya tama po, sinusuportahan namin ang panawagan ng ilang senador at kongresista na i-defund ang fund ng NTF-ELCAC at i-abolish na ito para mailaan ang pondo sa iba pang higit na kailangan ng mamayan,” Palabay said.
(We cannot see anything but blood, their record is full of it for the past 2 years since it was established. We support the call of some senators and lawmakers to defund NTF-ELCAC and abolish it so we could realign its funds to more pressing matters.)
Also among the groups present in the protest was Amihan, a women peasant group whose member, Amanda Echanis was arrested Wednesday after being charged by illegal possession of firearms, ammunition and explosives.
“'Yung takot may tapang na rin, kahit na natatakot ay nandun din ang tapang na ipagpatuloy ang kanilang pag-organisa dahil makatwiran ang kanilang ginagawa,” Amihan chairperson Zenaida Soriano said.
(We are scared but we will fight. Despite the fear, there is this strength to continue to organize because we know what they are doing is justified.)