The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) is facing criticism after it ordered the profiling of members of progressive groups just days after the "Bloody Sunday" raids in Calabarzon.
In a memorandum circular dated March 10, the DILG ordered its regional directors as well as the regional secretary of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao to list names of government employees who are proven to be members of progressive groups.
The memorandum is not in the DILG's website, but it is publicly accessible through the LGU vs COVID website that is co-managed by the department.
The two groups mentioned are the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) and the Confederation for Unity, Recognition, and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE). Both are progressive groups that advocate for the rights of teachers and government workers, respectively.
Without presenting proof, the DILG tagged them as communist-terrorist groups.
"In view thereof, it is advised for your office to initiate an investigation on the matter and validate employees who are definite members of COURAGE and if found to be true and authenticated, please submit their names for the perusal and information of the undersigned," the DILG said in its memorandum, signed by Assistant Secretary Alexander Macario.
Macario is a retired Army general, who was known for leading one of the bloodiest encounters with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, when 19 soldiers died under his command in 2011.
“It is advised further, to fend off and discourage existing employees' association or organization in your office to affiliate with the known CTG organization," the DILG also said, referring to ACT and COURAGE.
The government has been trying to pin down progressive groups – among the fiercest critics of the Duterte administration – as front organizations of the communist New People's Army, but no cases have been filed in court that prove their links.
In separate statements on Sunday, March 14, progressive lawmakers slammed the DILG for its memorandum.
"This is yet another evidence of blatant terrorist-tagging of legitimate people's organizations, and an unwarranted act of harassment and intimidation. They say there is no red-tagging. This. This is clearly red-tagging," said Bayan Muna Representative Ferdinand Gaite.
Gaite was a president of COURAGE before becoming a lawmaker.
In another statement, ACT Teachers Representative France Castro said the red-tagging undermines the groups' advocacies.
"Tagging their organizations as terrorist groups denies their legitimate demands for safe, accessible, and quality education and the fight for a meaningful salary increase and benefits for education workers, both in the public and private sector," Castro said.
The memorandum also comes just days after it was found that police attempted to profile lawyers of alleged communists in Calbayog City – an act that was condemned and led to the firing of the city's police chief. – Rappler.com
Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.