Photo from the Center for Trade Union and Human Rights
MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Wednesday, April 17, cautioned the government against red-tagging of several groups, including workers' unions, as it endangers the lives of members.
In a statement, CHR Spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia said allegations branding any group as a communist front should be "tried before fair and competent courts."
"Labeling groups before an objective judgment violates the constitutional guarantee of presumption of innocence and may have serious implications on the security and movement of individuals and groups involved," she said.
Labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) on Tuesday, April 16, filed a complaint before the CHR against attacks and harassment, including red-tagging and alleged fabrication of criminal charges.
In the complaint, KMU expressed its concerns over threats that affect workers' right to organize and assemble. The CHR said it has endorsed these concerns to several regional offices for investigations.
KMU is among the progressive groups that National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr accused of fronting for the Communist Party of the Philippines, in a letter sent to the European Union.
Major General Antonio Parlade Jr, the deputy chief-of-staff for civil military operations, also claimed that KMU was one of the groups used as a legal front for illegal activities by National Democratic Front consultant Rey Casambre.
Several organizations have also slammed the government for red-tagging, including health workers' groups who emphasized that their members are only doing their jobs in calling for better social services.
Karapatan, meanwhile, said the government's actions against human rights groups are "meant to dissuade international actors from providing resources to their work, research, and humanitarian support."
"This situation imperils the many efforts of human rights defenders and various organizations to access and inform the international community on cases of rights violations and the overall human rights situation in the Philippines and their initiatives to provide services for marginalized indigenous, peasant, and urban poor communities," it added.
The National Union of Peoples' Lawyers on Monday, April 15, filed petitions before the Supreme Court seeking protection from alleged harassment by the military.
Human rights groups have consistently condemned the government for red-tagging, profiling, and surveillance. In March 2018, the Department of Justice sought to tag several activists and leaders of progressive groups as terrorists. – Rappler.com
Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.