MANILA, Philippines – After raiding offices of activist organizations in Manila and Bacolod, Philippine security officials are now openly declaring longtime humanitarian and religious organizations here as communist fronts.
The National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), Oxfam sa Pilipinas, and Farmers Development Center (Fardec) were among the 18 organizations red-tagged by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Department of National Defense (DND) in a congressional briefing on Tuesday, November 5. (READ: In House briefing, AFP, DND accuse Gabriela of being ‘communist front’)
It was Major General Reuben Basiao, AFP Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence (J-2), who presented the list of 18 organizations that are alleged communist fronts.
NCCP said their inclusion in the list was an “attack on our Christian faith and tradition.”
“The NCCP vehemently condemns the malicious and careless tagging of the Armed Forces of the Philippines… We will remain resolute in our prophetic witness and service to the people even in the midst of shrinking democratic space and the rising impunity,” said NCCP in a Facebook post.
According to its official website, NCCP is an “ecumenical fellowship” of non-Roman Catholic denominations in the Philippines that are “working for unity in faith and order.”
Oxfam denied it is a front for communist terrorist groups, saying they are a development and humanitarian organization that has been assisting several communities in the country in the past 3 decades. It is part of the 19 organizations under Oxfam International that conducts humanitarian missions across the world.
Oxfam warned red-tagging them puts their partner communities at risk.
“If our vision and mission in the Philippines have led to Oxfam being labelled a ‘local communist terrorist group’ or a funder of ‘communist terrorist groups,’ then we find this a most troubling situation. These allegations affect not only us, but also put the communities and partners we work with at risk,” said Oxfam on Facebook.
“In a country where poverty remains, and poor communities are continually struck by disasters, we strongly believe that organizations like ours should be encouraged, rather than hindered, from undertaking our programs,” Oxfam added.
Patrick Torres, executive director of Central Visayas Fardec, also denied their group is a front for the Communist Party of the Philippines.
In an e-mail to Rappler, Torres explained Fardec is a non-governmental organization that has been helping farmers’ groups in Cebu, Bohol, and Negros Oriental – from educating them about their rights to promoting climate-resilient sustainable agriculture.
Torres said Fardec was red-tagged because their work with farmers has forced them to be critical of government policies that hurt their beneficiaries, such as infrastructure projects that displaced farmers and the rice tarrification law.
“We were also vocal in condemning the violence that claimed the lives of many farmers especially in the island of Negros where more than 80 people were killed since 2017. This is why we believe that we were included in this list to silence our advocacy for the rights of our farmers,” said Torres.
Despite the red-tagging, Torres said Fardec would continue championing the rights of farmers.
“We were founded in 1989 by farmer leaders, church people, and other agrarian reform advocates to support the collective efforts of farmers in breaking free from the bondage of poverty. So long as Filipino farmers suffer from these same conditions, our work will continue – no matter what list we find ourselves in,” he said.
AFP and DND officials bared to lawmakers the list of alleged communist fronts amid the government’s ongoing crackdown against progressive and human rights groups in the country.
The Manila police arrested 3 members of progressive groups during a raid in Tondo past midnight on Tuesday, while law enforcers in Bacolod City also arrested 56 persons affiliated with progressive and human rights groups during raids on their offices on October 31. – Rappler.com